Own our own data center? Why would anyone do that, CIOs ask

The data center may hold your company's most vital assets, but that doesn't mean you have to run it yourself, say tech chiefs on the CIO Jury.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

Data centers hold the crown jewels of any organisation — the mission-critical information that keeps every business in operation is stored in those servers.


As a result, for a long time that data center would be hidden away, often in the bowels of the corporate headquarters, and certainly somewhere the CIO could keep an eye on it.

But in an age of cloud and ubiquitous mobile remote access to business information, does it make sense that businesses need to own and operate their own data centers?

Few CIOs, it seems, see the benefit of keeping too tight a grip on their servers any more.

When asked the question "Is it always better to own your own data center?" ZDNet and TechRepublic's CIO Jury panel of tech decision makers responded with a resounding no by a margin of 11 to one.

Matthew Oakley Group head of IT at Schroders said that while you don't always have to own the data center, what does matter is knowing where your data is "and understanding the controls around securing it and the infrastructure it runs on."

For smaller organisations it's an easy decision to make, according to Alan Bawden, commercial director at The JM Group, said: "For an SME it is much better to outsource it and hand it over to the professionals — you will however have to pay a little more to ensure that the provider can meet your security and uptime requirements." Michael Hanken, VP of IT at Multiquip added: "With the right outsourcing partner you can leverage scale and free up your team from routine operations. The key is, however, to find the right partner."

In an age of cloud and ubiquitous mobile remote access to business information, does it make sense that businesses need to own and operate their own data centers?

Matthew Metcalfe, director of information systems at Northwest Exterminating, makes a similar point: "There are many factors that determine whether owning the data center makes sense to a company. It makes sense for those companies who have a 'facility' or more of resources to manage, while it doesn't make sense for those smaller companies who may have a handful of servers but require the uptime associated with true data center architectures."

Will Weider CIO at Ministry Health Care said his organisation had made the decision "to get out of the data center business."

He explained: "It is one of those areas that is deceptively complex filled with trial and tribulation. When I first made the decision to get out of the data center business my sense was that the technical team disagreed. But I am starting to hear members of that team say we could never have built a new data center on our own, and we made the right move." Weider said part of the reason was the scale of his organisation — 1,400 servers and $2.2bn in revenues.

"We are large enough to require a high level of engineering. But we are not large enough to employ people with dedicated experience."

Gavin Megnauth, director of operations at Morgan Hunt, said that increasingly managed services are becoming the norm, and that as cloud management is "officially the fastest growth industry sector in the UK" hopefully cost will come down and quality improve.

But John Gracyalny, VP IT, SafeAmerica Credit Union cautioned: "There is no one-size-fits-all, 'always' answer."

You can find more verdicts from the CIO Jury on TechRepublic.

This week's CIO Jury was

  • Rohit Killam, CTO, Masan Group
  • Delano Gordon, CIO, Roofing Supply Group
  • Mike Roberts, IT director, The London Clinic
  • Michael Hanken, VP of IT, Multiquip
  • Alan Bawden, commercial director, The JM Group
  • Shawn P Beighle, CIO, the International Republican Institute
  • Will Weider, CIO, Ministry Health Care
  • Matthew Metcalfe, director of information systems, Northwest Exterminating
  • Kevin Quealy, director of information services and facilities, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia
  • Matthew Oakley, Group head of IT, Schroders
  • John Gracyalny, VP IT, SafeAmerica Credit Union
  • Gavin Megnauth, director of operations, Morgan Hunt

Want to be part of TechRepublic's CIO Jury and have your say on the hot issues for IT decision-makers? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company, working in the private sector or in government, and you want to join TechRepublic's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should, then get in contact. Either click the Contact link below or email me, steve dot ranger at techrepublic dot com, and send your name, title, company, location, and email address.

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