IT to IT: Dark Sites, Don’t Let It Happen to You.

By Chris SeveyBlog

This IT to IT column is a new idea, and with this new idea, I plan on speaking from one IT guy to another without filling the topic with corporate buzz words, and just bringing up the topics that we can care about as IT. So with that, I want to start talking about the nightmare of dark sites.

What is a dark site? A dark site is simple and reasonable in concept. It allows a datacenter to simply pay for one set of staff, and have someone on call for off business hours. This allows the datacenter to cut power needs and staffing needs for the 16 hours a day that someone isn’t there. “Jon, wait,” you say, “My data center has 7/24/365 support!” This is where I ask is the data center constantly staffed, or are you placing a call for the local IT administrator to come in, from his comfy bed, and then assist you?

How does a dark site hurt you? It hurts, because, in that previous example, paying for them to come in likely results in paying for unscheduled overtime. This translates as unnecessary fees on your end. It also causes a drastic delay in what could be a crisis in the making. At Enseva, we always have someone on site with a pager, this allows response times to always be within 15 minutes, no matter their location in the data center.

At a dark center you have to wake someone up, let him/her get to the datacenter, wake up enough to figure out what’s wrong, and then hopefully fix it. This is all while likely charging you every step of the way. During a crisis EVERY MINUTE COUNTS!

How do I spot a dark site? Most dark sites don’t advertise it unless they are declaring it as their latest cost cutting measure. (It makes one wonder what other costs they’ve cut.) One way you can check is by looking at their NOC room. Chances are, that if staff is expected to be around 24/7, you can expect a comfortable, well-furnished break room with a multitude of screens, a seating area, and likely refreshments.

Other ways to spot it are to look at the companies off hour policy. It is likely that if they have an off hour policy at all, then they aren’t truly 100% staffed at all hours of the day. If they make you pay additional fees, or have strict appointment making schedules, then a red flag should definitely be raising in your head.

So if I were choosing a datacenter, I would definitely meet with the staff, check their overnight polices and if I still wasn’t sure, I’d then maybe do a night drive by, to see if the building is even occupied at night. (Check for cars if the lights are off!) This little bit of extra checking can help prevent you from having a nightmare of an experience if you ever have issues during off hours.

Jonathon Harper is an IT professional who’s been in the field for over 8 years. This IT to IT thread focuses on bringing up real topics free of corporate buzz words and fluff. As IT guys and gals we know when someone is just trying to throw out jargon and we just want to hear what really matters to us.