Data Center: 4 Questions to Ask Your Logistics Provider | Transportfolio
When shopping around for the right logistics provider, you’re bound to ask hundreds (if not thousands) of questions. It’s certainly important to understand a provider’s offerings, capabilities, network, and customer service standards; but asking about their data center and data security is a vitally important aspect that is easy to overlook.
Why? People tend to forget that all of the tracking and reporting capabilities they want requires a lot of data—data that should always be available. So, the next time you’re shopping for a new logistics provider, or if you’re working with one already, don’t forget to ask these four questions about their data center.
1. Who owns and manages the data center?
This is often determined by the size of the provider—assuming the provider has the desire to manage their own data center. Larger providers have more resources to own, whereas smaller providers often rent space at a colocation facility or within their own office space.
There are pros and cons to each, but it’s important you’re comfortable with who’s managing the system and working to guarantee your up time. Colocation can provide IT services, which is something to consider when it comes to support and issue resolution.
At a minimum, you should ensure your provider has a concurrently maintainable data center. This means there are redundant components and independent distribution paths so any area can be purposely shut down without disrupting service. Ideally, the data center should have an operational efficiency goal to help reduce unnecessary expenses being passed on to you.
2. What is the security process like?
Access to a data center should be limited to prevent outages and reduce risk. If offered a tour of your provider’s data center, you can look for the physical trappings of security.
At a minimum, there should be locked doors, cameras with image recording, and keycard and/or even actual keyed access; but ideally, there should be an extensive process backing up these features as well.
Also ask your provider how they secure their systems, and even more importantly, who will be able to access your data throughout its lifecycle and how the security system is monitored and audited—internally, externally, or both.
3. How is the data center’s hardware maintained?
You can have the most efficient, secure, top of the line data center, but without proper maintenance something will go wrong—much like a car. Even if you buy a Mercedes or Ferrari, if you don’t perform regular oil changes, it will breakdown eventually.
There may be differing best practices for testing and maintenance, but a data center that tests quarterly will probably have a better idea of potential issues before they become actual problems than a data center that only tests annually. Similar to security, a data center’s maintenance program should also be audited (preferably both internally and externally).
4. What’s the data backup/recovery plan?
Okay, I’ll admit, this one is probably already on your list of questions to ask. We all know that disasters strike unexpectedly, but a quality data center will have a solid backup plan in place to minimize your downtime in the event of the unthinkable.
Ideally, your data center should have a separate facility in another location to rely on if something happened to the primary data center. Much like fire drills help prevent issues during an emergency, testing the recovery plan is a critical step.
In addition, the data center should also have workable goals to get the critical systems up and running after an incident. These are defined as the response time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). Both the RTO and RPO should align with your own service guarantees and customer commitments.
In today’s world of big data and global supply chains, data centers are a big deal. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your provider’s data center, and remember that the right logistics provider will be able to give you the answers you’re looking for.