Case study – In-house vs. external staff in your data centre

No matter how well provisioned your IT equipment is for remote access and support, you will always need staff located physically onsite, or who could be there within the agreed SLA time. These are technical people, carrying out the physical maintenance and support of the systems in your data centre, unlike your systems administrators who manage software and configuration remotely

Sometimes systems administrators are located hundreds miles away from the data centre. They are simply too far away to perform hands-on work with your servers. You need people onsite.

You have a few choices when choosing how to staff your data centres:

You can hire people directly, ask for support from the organisation hosting your remote DC, or contract with a specialist provider of data centre technical staff. The decision is a balancing act between SLA response/fix times and costs.

Before you commit, you must consider the following factors:

  1. How many sites do you have?: A single site? Multiple locations? Are they in different cities or countries?
  2. Type of devices: What type of hardware do you have? Is it mainly servers and storage, or routers and other network devices?
    The frequency of drive failure means that servers and disk arrays will always need coverage for drive replacement at the very least. Network devices need less manual maintenance but they might need onsite assistance in the event of failure.
  3. Amount of devices: How many chassis do you have? If you have less than 20 racks of equipment there will not be enough maintenance work required to justify employing a full time onsite data centre technician.
  4. SLA response time: Are the systems mission critical or can you afford a couple of hours downtime? Do you have backups/fail-overs for your service?
    A 2-hour response time SLA will require staff onsite 24/7/365. If you can tolerate 3-6 hours of downtime, your staffing options increase.
  5. Enterprise grade or low-end: High-end devices typically offer OOB remote access and tend to fail less frequently. Low-end devices without OOB will need more attention on site.
  6. Frequency of new deployments/decommissioning: Do you have a static infrastructure or does it need to change regularly? If your team is busy with maintenance they won’t have time to manage deployments too. Either they work overtime (at significant cost) or neglect essential maintenance duties during the deployment, potentially affecting service availability.

Once you understand these requirements you can estimate the amount of work that needs to be done by an onsite engineer. You will also have a better understanding of daily data centre tasks and how often you need an engineer onsite. These estimates will not include large extension projects however –  they always require additional external resources to assist.

So what are the pros and cons of trying to manage these requirements with your own staff, versus using a third party specialist?

Onsite employees

Pros:

  • They are 100% available for the company tasks
  • Cost effective in some very specific circumstances
  • Enforcing company policy change is simple

Cons:

  • Increased hiring and training costs, plus additional facilities required for supervision
  • Need an office plus travel expenses
  • Not scalable – if you run out of human resources, you will need to hire even more technicians
  • As an entry-level IT job, employees may not stay long once they have acquired skills and experience

Remote support from your DC host

Pros:

  • 24/7/365 availability of employees in your data centre
  • Very useful for helping to manage and rectify an emergency situation
  • Good for occasional tasks

Cons:

  • High hourly cost
  • Not every DC offers onsite support services for their customers
  • DC employees only carry out basic troubleshooting/tasks

DC engineers supplied by 3rd party company

Pros:

  • Easy scalability – get the people you need for as long as you need them
  • Cost effective – the 3rd party company covers all hiring/training/supervising facility costs
  • It appears as an operational cost for your accounts
  • A fully scalable workforce means 3rd party specialists can handle bigger projects

Cons:

  • 3rd party support provisions can be more expensive than onsite employees in some instances
  • Finding the right data centre partner can be difficult
  • Inflexibility in your operations/infrastructure may complicate the change processes

This list is not exhaustive and you may still have questions about which is staffing model best meets your needs. Here are a couple of scenarios when you should seriously consider outsourcing to an external contractor:

  • You have equipment in single or multiple sites, containing less than 30 cabinets in total. Decide what you believe is a realistic SLA time and assess which experts can deliver. You may also need a 24/7/365 contract in your data centre to provide emergency troubleshooting.
  • Your data centre environment is constantly growing, evolving and diverting your team from other tasks
  • For a big deployment, particularly those that are time critical, it is better to use 3rd parties. Your regular staff members must focus on completing the daily tasks – they cannot be neglected for several days while you complete an infrastructure project. A lack of coverage causes disruption to your operations and affects system availability.

In most cases your business will benefit from outsourcing the data centre. It’s just a case of figuring out what you need.

To learn more about 3rd party data center services from Data Centre Professional, including details of which support model is the best for your business, please give us a call.

Related Posts