6 reasons why hosting companies should focus on regular data center maintenance

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It’s a good time to be in the web hosting business. The industry has been enjoying double-digit growth on its way to over $150 billion in annual revenues. Although price competition is fierce, the demand for managed hosting services and other premium offerings gives companies options to protect their margins. To capture market share, however, the customer experience must be top-notch.

Unfortunately, many companies are being held back because they’ve overlooked the fundamentals of data center maintenance. Proper hardware upkeep comprises a long and pesky set of tasks, and many operators believe an army of IT staff is required to keep pace. This can make it tempting to cut corners, but hosting companies do so at their own peril.

Data Center

The fact is, a bulletproof data center—or several of them—is the core of any hosting or networking business, making continuous data center maintenance a real advantage. Here are just six reasons why web hosting companies are engaging providers capable of delivering a complete and “always on” maintenance solution.

1. “Up” matters more than anything.

If services go down, customers get angry as they lose opportunities to profit from online views and transactions.

A hosting company that can’t guarantee uptime isn’t much of a hosting company at all, so every industry player is targeting a spot at the head of the rankings for 100% uptime, as Fat Cow achieved for six straight months in 2018.

Impressive availability alone might not be enough to steal the lead from the likes of Go Daddy and Amazon, but with those two names representing only about 12% of the market, there is room for other top performers to eke out a strong livelihood. Regular maintenance is the key to uptime. It includes network monitoring to uncover and resolve bottlenecks, the root cause analysis to determine and address why failures happen, hardware assessments to figure out how much life is left in each piece of equipment, and the rapid-response repair-or-replace service to bring systems back online at the first sign of impending or actual failure. Without these components, hosting companies are toast, no avocado.

2. Save money … a lot of it.

Speaking of downtime, it’s expensive. Gartner pegs the cost at thousands of dollars per minute. Rigorous control of downtime can, therefore, avoid tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending each year, but that’s only the beginning of the cost advantage for continual data center maintenance. It can also deliver:

  • Lower capital and operating expenditures by getting your hardware assets repaired rather than buying expensive new gear. Many companies provide you with this service.
  • The better Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), with insightful reporting dashboards helping to steer the organization in a cost-efficient direction
  • More granularly targeted spending based on unbiased input regarding hardware lifecycle and optimal replacement timeframes — plus well-founded recommendations on the best hardware investments, not manufacturer-driven sales pitches
  • Revenues from asset recovery, delivered by a partner with existing channels for used equipment and the time and attention to devote to securing top dollar for hardware no longer needed by the organization
  • Lower maintenance contract costs compared to IT hardware manufacturers

The money NOT spent on maintenance can provide more fuel for growth and expansion while helping to deliver great service to customers without breaking the bank.

3. Take (some of) the risk out of the rapid expansion.

Expansion always presents challenges, and some hosting companies have found it all too easy to grow beyond their IT staffing capabilities. Suddenly, there simply aren’t enough engineers to keep mission-critical systems running and troubleshoot any issues that arise—and we find ourselves talking about reputation-killing downtime again.

Working with a continuous maintenance partner offers the opportunity to offload maintenance tasks to field service experts, averting downtime as well as human resources risks. Using outsourced experts reduces the pressure to staff up aggressively, which could otherwise result in bringing bring on the wrong employees, overlooking proper vetting, or making other poor decisions in the rush to achieve full capacity.

What’s more, service level agreements provide essential guarantees that the necessary work will always get done, regardless of how harried IT employees may be by the latest acquisition or new launch. These assurances also provide recourse if, for any reason, a key task is overlooked. Company leaders can, therefore, spend less time worrying about plugging the dykes and more effort pushing toward strategic objectives.

4. Win the battle for tech talent.

A strong economy and low overall unemployment are great, unless you need to hire IT professionals, as most hosting and networking customers are hurrying to do. With exceptionally few engineers sitting idle, waiting to be snatched up, and existing employees being headhunted almost daily, it’s difficult to maintain the roster. The talent gap in STEM fields, including technology, further complicates the picture.

Continuous maintenance providers slash the need for support engineers on the payroll, which will certainly make the recruitment team smile. Using this approach to tackle maintenance also makes it possible to throw more resources at the big problems when they happen, to a degree not generally possible with an enterprise’s own streamlined staffing levels. In other words, outsourced maintenance is like adding a large group of experts to the team, available at a moment’s notice, but it doesn’t carry the same onboarding challenges or overhead.

5. Your business is more than the network — so act like it.

Web hosting companies and networking providers can often get hung up on—you guessed it—the network. Network management is a key priority, which continuous maintenance can enhance, but enterprise technology comprises more than networking gear.

Servers and storage arrays need love, too. For instance, every bit and byte of customers’ data entrusted to the company must be protected. Continuous maintenance helps ensure hardware failures don’t take out storage systems. With such a provider on your side, all systems are regularly evaluated, consistently monitored, and routinely maintained, with additional interventions organized quickly whenever error reports are thrown up.

Well-planned and frequently verified backup and restore procedures, which will be overseen by top-tier maintenance providers as well, are yet another feature. The value of this service becomes readily apparent when a system does meet an untimely end but the data it housed is back online shortly thereafter.

6. Security, security, security.

Poorly maintained systems are also a security risk. Delayed installation of critical patches to address known vulnerabilities—and in some cases, no such installation at all—leaves the doors wide open for malware, hackers, and data breaches, which can carry legal implications and result in investigations, uproar, and regulatory fines. Continuous maintenance helps keep the data center and all its equipment locked down behind the firewall by responding promptly and effectively to every security alert in the industry.

The best hardware maintenance providers will ensure the equipment remains secure as well. For example, they’ll only replace secure drives with secure drives, never unsecured ones, and implement proper configuration to take advantage of all reasonable and available protections.

From the broadest perspective, continuous maintenance by a quality provider is about the security of the entire company, including its customer base, reputation, and financial status. From limiting avoidable downtime incidents to installing critical patches pronto, an “always on” maintenance solution is the most secure option for hosting and networking companies competing to be top dogs in this robust and growing industry.

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