I’m looking to outsource our data centre hosting to an external supplier. What should I look for in a potential provider and how do I ensure that I receive true value from the relationship?

With squeezed IT budgets, it can be hard for IT directors to justify not automatically buying into the perceived cheapest option for data centre hosting.

However, it is important to select a supplier that will adequately prepare you for every eventuality. However sound your business continuity strategy, unexpected issues will inevitably emerge during rehearsals.

You don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised by any element of your disaster recovery procedure when faced with a real incident, so it’s well worth going through this with your data centre provider in advance. Dan Smith, managed services director at retail IT services and solutions company Retail Assist, says: “By proving that you have invested time in rehearsals and attesting to your preparedness, a supplier may also be able to add value to the relationship by influencing a reduction in your insurance premiums.”

It’s also vital to invest in a specialist provider in your industry. “When returning to live systems operations following a disaster recovery procedure, the type of problem that retailers often face is that of finding that critical data such as sales figures has been duplicated,” says Smith.

In a multichannel world where sales information is utilised by a retailer’s website, concessions and bricks-and-mortar stores, this is a real issue.

Incorrect data may result in misleading sales information. “This can affect future buying and allocation decisions, which have a knock-on effect in lost sales via any of these routes to market, ultimately affecting your bottom line. Having a partner who understands this is invaluable,” says Smith.