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Where Would You Outsource Your Datacenter? 67

An anonymous reader asks: "I want to outsource everything in our rackspace to reputable online providers. After wasting valuable time every day on mundane problems and upgrades, I'm convinced it's cheaper to pay monthly than maintain our hardware and staff time. So I ask you, Slashdot: who would you turn to for reliable and secure outsourcing of a VPN server, Exchange server, online backup, and webserver hosting?"
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Where Would You Outsource Your Datacenter?

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  • Linkage. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Cave Dweller ( 470644 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @06:47PM (#12926781)
    WebHostingTalk.com [webhostingtalk.com] -- these forums, although owned/sponsored by EV1.net are proven to be full of quality advice and populated by people who usually know what they're doing and whom to order to rent the hardware/bandwidth/services from.

    Ask there if you want to get advice from a multitude of people who deal with those decision on a daily basis.

    (No, not affiliated w/WHT or EV1).
    • You may also consider supporting the peeps on /. and going with http://www.simpli.biz/ [simpli.biz]. Owned and operated by slashchick [slashdot.org]. I've never used them, but have heard only good things about them.
    • WebHostingTalk hasn't been owned by EV1 for a long time. It isn't even hosted there anymore, it's hosted at RackSpace now.
    • You also need to realize that WHT is not representative of the market for these kinds of services. A lot of the memebers on the forum are individuals running small or very small hosting programs. There are some big companies, but, its more representative of the small business end rather than the enterprise end. (I assume this is not what you are looking for based upon your question).

      Use this as a starting point and then jump off into research based upon what you find here.

      It appears you are not looking
  • by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @07:02PM (#12926899) Homepage Journal
    ...reliable and secure outsourcing of [...] Exchange server

    I have no joke here, I just like saying "reliable and secure Exchange server".

  • by Jailbrekr ( 73837 ) <jailbrekr@digitaladdiction.net> on Monday June 27, 2005 @07:14PM (#12926986) Homepage
    You should be asking "Which company can we outsource our I/T needs to?". Parking your servers in a remote location will not reduce your overall costs, it will only increase your potential downtime. Why? Because you are introducing another point of failure. That point of failure is between your business and the datacentre you have outsourced to.

    If you value your data, keep it internal and outsource the support to a solution provider like EDS, IBM, or any of those big firms. They will provide the expertese necessary to supply and maintain the hardware and software for you so you can concentrate on your core business.

    It won't be cheaper, but you will be able to easily quantify the yearly I/T costs which will make the accountants happy, and you will be able to pull the necessary funds from a different piggy bank, keeping your payroll low.
    • by imsmith ( 239784 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @08:27PM (#12927432)
      Paying for insourcing isn't as simple as it sounds - I worked once helping get rid of an insourcing contractor. They will provide exactly those services that you ask them to, and any changes will be charged a contract modification fee. They will try to take profits in the 35% range on your fee, primarily by under staffing your IT shop. They will assure their permenance by not not documenting anything, or making the system documentation the proprietary property of the insourcing corporation. Not only will it not be cheaper, but it will most likely cost more.

      The lesson I learned was that those tricks you use to make your accountants happy and keep your payroll low are short-sighted and ill-concieved. You should be managing the IT budget to make itemized accounting anyhow, and keeping your payroll low just off-sets the true cost of IT, which, until the software stops having bugs, the malicious code stops beign written by human beings, and active intrusion stops originating in people, will remain a something that ranges from just above menial thinking to substantial serious talent. You just can't have enough brains when running enterprise IT.

      If your company can turn off the LAN and still turn profits, then they shouldn't even have an IT shop, but if that isn't the case, your company needs to look at IT as an essential horizontal business unit that sits at the table for every strategic discussion, not a cost center where savings can be made by cutting labor.
      • by hdparm ( 575302 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @12:15AM (#12928864) Homepage
        I totally agree. From personal experience though - it is very hard to convince management assembled of bean counters not to outsource.

        My company did just that and they were stupid enough to sign a contract that doesn't include any service level agreements, just blank statements of the type that company such-and-such will provide this and this and that. When? Nobody knows - as long as they do it on the last day of contract (2 years) they're good.

        What did we get? Hosted email server that is down several times a week, unstable VPN, 30 something servers still waiting replacement, lack of central backup facility, more promises and IT dept decreased to 2 people treated like shit (1 of which is me).

        New GM seems to have brains, so he's started pressing very hard and looks like he's going to manage to get out of contract. Once he does that, IT dept. will shrink further because the day the contract is terminated and IT services brought back in house I shall resign with great satisfaction of being right from the beginning and the opportunity to rub few big noses.

        So, my advice to Ask /. inquiry is DO NOT DO IT! Find couple of people who are competent and who care - you'll be surprised how much good work and cost saving can be made by just two guys like that.

      • I took over support of the telephones in addition to the network for exactly this reason. The old system was undocumented, expensive and very difficult to change. Now its been replaced with a self-managed Nortel PBX and all of the wiring and patch panels are documented the same as the network. This gave us better monitoring, as well, so we can see if we really need that many lines. We can also have the same guy do all the wiring for an office instead of it being two different groups. Insourcing all the
  • How much are you paying now?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    By outsourcing you kill US jobs and lead the country into the CEO & janitor work market. You should support American family values by:

    - hiring an under-represented minority to do the job for you even when the skill set is clearly not there
    - providing all the medical and dental benefits to aforementioned worker
    - providing excellent vacation hours and ability to celebrate racial/ethnic holidays
    - aspire to pay top dollar to keep the jobs in the US

    From what I read on Slashdot, this should bring booming su
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 27, 2005 @07:18PM (#12927015)

    I have a similar problem. I'm in charge of an IT department that runs a VPN server, Exchange server, online backup, and webserver hosting. After wasting our time with a management staff that doesn't want to adequately staff our department, we've decided to outsource them. Where would go to outsource your management?
  • Totality (Score:3, Informative)

    by infonography ( 566403 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @07:26PM (#12927073) Homepage
    If your in a larger scale organization IMHO you should take a look at Totality [totality.com] they do the heavy lifting on our servers running Solaris, Oracle, and Weblogic they do a rather fanatical job. We just put in tickets and they do upgrades and installs, do late at night recoveries, take tapes out of the backup server, etc. They have a nice blend of on-site and remote management. They fix stuff so I can sleep.
  • Savvis does a good portion of this. They even will outsource an entire data center to a customer (or 2, if you're microsoft).

    Check them out [savvis.net]
  • I don't know the answer to your question, but when you lose your job because of outsourcing your company's IT assets, you can follow this link here [manpower.com].
  • My advice (Score:3, Informative)

    by wikinerd ( 809585 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @07:38PM (#12927153) Journal

    My advice is to continue managing your own hardware. Having my own rack hardware in my property and my own dedicated Internet fat pipes, while being able to modify and hack the systems in any way I want is my dream. True, I'm a nerd, but I can't imagine anyone not enjoying changing some RAM or a SCSI hard disk occasionally. It may mean you may have more downtime and maybe even lose some money if your servers support your business, but money isn't everything in this world, there is happiness too, and I personally love to delve deep into hardware.

    But because I'm not a yuppie I do not own my own servers, dataroom, and fat pipe. Therefore, when I wanted to start my website, I had to buy the services of a webhosting firm.

    I chose WestHost [wikinerds.org] (the link leads to my affiliate page for them, their website is www.westhost.com) which is based in Utah, USA. I have my website hosted there for a year and I really like their immediate support. When you send them an e-mail you can usually except an answer within hours. The services they offer are VPS and dedicated servers, all with ssh access of course, but I am not sure whether they do colocation. It's not a big firm, I think it's family-owned, but they have a beautiful professional datacenter (they have photos somewhere on their site) with P4-3GHz servers with Redhat-based OS (equiped with a nice control panel they have developed) and a very useful forum [westhost.com] where existing customers and prospective new customers can discuss, so perhaps you can go there and ask us (the existing customers) about our experiences with them.

    Therefore if I was in your shoes, I would first reconsider and try to continue managing my own hardware, and if I could not, then I would ask WestHost whether they can help you.

    • by pyite ( 140350 )
      True, I'm a nerd, but I can't imagine anyone not enjoying changing some RAM or a SCSI hard disk occasionally. It may mean you may have more downtime and maybe even lose some money if your servers support your business, but money isn't everything in this world, there is happiness too, and I personally love to delve deep into hardware.

      True, I'm an anatomy geek, but I can't imagine anyone not enjoying a self-performed heart bypass or defibrillation. It may seem like you are on the brink of death and maybe ev
  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @07:41PM (#12927171) Homepage
    Where would you...?

    Since you put it that way: I'd turn it over to no one but myself. Every time I've tried "outsourcing" some component of my online presence (web hosting, DNS, e-mail account), I've come to regret it. I'd rather pull what's left of my hair out fixing something myself than put up with someone else's incompetence. Your Mileage May Vary, but I've found the minuses outweigh the plusses.

  • Preferably in your building. It's more reliable to put the admin on the other end of a long copper line than your server.
  • by mrolig ( 101666 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @08:00PM (#12927290) Homepage
    How can you already have the conclusion that it is cheaper to outsource? If you don't know who could offer you the services you need, how do you know what they charge? You should investigate your requirements, prepare a bid if you keep in in-house, ask for bids to do it outsourced and compare.

    Here's the situation I think you want avoid:

    Company: keeping vending machines stocked and maintained is a pain in the butt and it costs us $5000 a month.

    I know there are companies that provide this service for $2500.

    Concusion : Let's oursource!

    Gather requirements, ask for bids to do soda and candy machines.

    Best bid $6000 a month. Ooops - the $2500 we knew about was only for Soda.

    You have to have your requirements together to get bids to make the initial decision to outsource.
  • I host my newspaper at EV1servers, but that's not what you need.

    What you need is to outsource all of the day-to-day grunt work. My other company could do email for you but we don't do webservers.

    Have you considered splitting it up?

    You need to dump Exchange. its the most horrible, time-consuming, labour-intensive and expensive email system possible.

    If you must stick with Windows (horrible server OS), "Rackspace.com" does Windows and I've never heard any complaints about them. They aren't cheap, but they
  • by YankeeInExile ( 577704 ) * on Monday June 27, 2005 @10:44PM (#12928444) Homepage Journal

    At a POPE, one of my Major Projects was bringing inhouse all of our datacenter operations that we had been paying (dearly) for outsourcing.

    The reason is simple: Nobody cares as much about your business as you do. Any outsourcing or insourcing vendor you choose is going to maximize their profits by providing cookie-cutter solutions, and hiring worst-in-breed talent to maintain them.

    Unless your needs are truly mundane, you are better of swallowing the bitter pill, and using all of the experience you have already paid for to keep the systems going yourselves.

    • And beware false statements too.

      "Worst in Breed"?

      That may be true of a backyard operation, but any business that wants to keep its customers doesn't hire dorks.

      Some businesses will do this, of course, but you shouldn't outsorce to them without checking that they know what they are talking about.

      Remember also, that you only sign a contract that you agree to. You can get lots of interesting things into a contract, such as performance guarantees.

      If they won't agree to a reasonable performance guarantee, t
  • Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @10:47PM (#12928460) Homepage
    1) Eliminate Exchange Server.
    2) Analyze value of vpn. Is there really a need to connect just like you are in the building? If no, eliminate.
    3) Engage managed services firm to handle your application servers. Put them in another NOC only if you have bandwidth to have decent quality of service.
    4) Web hosting depends on the size of the site. Most sites can easily be handled by shared hosting like this example [incredible...ngdeal.com]. If you need a server, you can get decent linux boxes for $129/mo or less and windows boxes for about $20 more per month. I'm always amazed when I see someone host a website in house when you can host somewhere else for exponentially less money.

    • Well one good reason for putting a web server in house is that you may need to link it in some way to your customer database.
      I wrote a system for our customers to use the Internet to request a support call. I had to link it to our phone call tracking program. What I did was to have just that one page hosted on a server in house with the majority of the website at a hosting firm.
  • Get ahold of the command and control codes for some zombie army and create your own "outsourcing" company. :) Then, offer l33t kiddies some CC#'s to run it all for you. Send your employer a bill from a shell company in Nevada (which is owned by you anonymously). Profit.
  • http://www.mind.net/ [mind.net] could provide that, of course. Ask for Chris Leiter!
  • by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @09:21AM (#12931102) Homepage Journal

    I've already given the fatuous response, so let me go back and try a serious one.

    After wasting valuable time every day on mundane problems and upgrades, I'm convinced it's cheaper to pay monthly than maintain our hardware and staff time.

    Think about this statement for a minute. The costs you are identifying are hardware and software maintenance. Well, those aren't the costs you save by outsourcing your data center.

    Outsourcing is about saving head count, and not needing expertise. Unless your hardware is way over capacity, there's probably no money to be saved there; so all you're hoping to do is save on hardware and software support costs. Well, there might be some savings there, but there's not a huge economy of scale, and remember that hosting companies are in business to make a profit. So, will the economy of scale of shared support offset the profit margin? I'd be doubtful.

    Maybe what you ought to do is ask yourself WHY your support costs are so high. Start reducing some of those costs, don't just hide them in some third party contract. I've already pointed out one big cost in my other posting--Exchange servers. Depending on the size of your organization, it might be possible to keep the Exchange client, drop the Exchange server, drop in a replacement server, and consolidate half a dozen crashy Windows boxes into one reliable Linux server.

    • Maybe what you ought to do is ask yourself WHY your support costs are so high. Start reducing some of those costs, don't just hide them in some third party contract.
      The real question isn't what the costs are but what will we save; if IT budget is direct plus indirect costs, outsourcing will just shift a bunch of over-head around which will dilute any expected savings. Moving the severs out of the data-center won't necessarily repurpose the data-center to something more useful like production space.
  • I do a fair amount of business with them and their services are pretty decent.

    http://www.theplanet.com/ [theplanet.com]

    Call 1-800-377-6103 and Ask for Enterprise Sales

    Also to those who say drop Exchange, what would recommend in place of it? Lotus blows (the client does anyways) so that leaves groupwise in the Groupware product market. I've yet to find a decent GPL groupware product that has a client on Windows that isn't some plugin for exchange.
  • Rackspace [rackspace.com] is expensive but they've never let me down. And it's the only place I know where you can call their toll-free number at 3am and the first person who picks up the phone can have an intelligent conversation with you about FreeBSD kernel tuning.

    In five years there's never been any unexpected downtime or network problems, and scheduled downtime has been measured in minutes per year. In the one case where one of the drives in one of our servers failed, they worked hard to get it taken care of ASAP.

  • Remember to think about the perspective of the outsourcing provider. I've been the provider and I've occasionally been the customer, so I've seen alot of really bad scenes.

    If a local admin is personally responsible for the operation of an email system at a non-IT company, if it's down for an extended time, it's time to update the resume. In other words, email is perceived to be worth a $75K job to someone, and hopefully the admin provides $75K of value to the company. Also during an outage the admin's e

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