More and more, businesses are choosing to house at least some of their servers and infrastructure outside headquarters. For the most part, that’s a good thing: a business scales and says goodbye to the days when it could keep all its IT equipment in a closet or spare corner. 

As a next step, public cloud services providers like AWS, Google, and Azure offer some useful solutions, but – as you may have already discovered – they can get expensive pretty quickly. 

As traffic increases and your footprint grows, there comes a point when cloud services no longer make economic sense. Colocation is often the next logical step.

What is colocation? Colocation means renting space in a data center for servers, storage, networking equipment, and other IT infrastructure. You can rent out as much rack space as you need. Data centers can provide you with security measures, plenty of bandwidth, backup power sources, and the right environment to keep your infrastructure safe, without your IT team having to be inside. 

There are over 8,000 data centers around the world, allowing your company to reach any global network. But as your company scales, what happens if a disruption at a faraway data center threatens to shut down operations? You’re obviously not sending your IT staff on an overnight flight to go save the day in another country. And even if your colocation facility is local, most IT teams don’t have time to pack up and go there, anyway. This is why it’s crucial to get familiar with the specific data center services you’re paying for. 

When it comes to onsite support at data centers, remote hands and smart hands services are the concepts you want to get familiar with. In this article, we’ll explain the remote hands vs smart discussion: how the two differ, when you might need them, the types of providers that offer them, and what to look for when figuring out what’s right for your company. 

What are Remote Hands?

Remote hands service represents the more basic tier of on-site support offered by data centers. This includes tasks such as rebooting equipment, disconnecting and reconnecting cables, checking port numbers, power cycling, and audits.

Both data center operators and providers operating inside a data center as part of the ecosystem offer remote hands services, so you can procure services for both. 

What are Smart Hands?

The purview of smart hands covers more complex support services than remote hands, and requires a higher level of IT knowledge to perform. Smart hands services include complicated cable work, setting up new IT equipment, putting a firewall in place, and troubleshooting all kinds of hardware: circuits, cooling units, etc. 

Smart hands tasks often go above and beyond what’s offered by colocation facilities, so it’s important to know what’s covered in your contract. You’re often going to be paying for smart hands services by hourly billing, so they tend to cost more than basic, remote hands. 

Best Practices for Managing Remote and Smart Hands

It’s not always clear what level of service you’re getting. When trying out a new provider, it’s a good idea to give them some trial tasks to determine their competency level. We asked Kate Gerry, Director of Global Networks at NetActuate, for some practical advice based on her experiences: 

“Sometimes, remote hands can do the most basic of requests, such as pushing a button. Smarter hands can use a keyboard to do something on a console. Even smarter hands can open a server to add, remove, or troubleshoot components that may have failed.”

It’s best not to make any assumptions about the situation you’re walking into. Here’s another anecdote from Kate:

“A remote hands worker went to work on one of our racks. He didn’t see a ladder, so he grabbed a rolling chair. The chair fell out from under him and he caught himself on our cabling, which broke some fiber. That caused an outage of that cabinet while we replaced the broken components. After explaining his troubles, he clarified that no harm had come to him. You want to ensure that the data center has proper equipment.” 

NetActuate provides smart hands services for their customers across 40 locations globally.  Speaking of having the right tools, NetActuate’s own engineers travel so much that they wrote a blog and made a video about what’s in their “go bag”: 

Tips for Managing a Global Colocation Deployment Remotely

For a global footprint, remote hands are a critical time saver. Still, this presents some new challenges. You may be managing multiple providers in different countries, leading you to navigate lots of different people, across different time zones. This can get really consuming.

One simplifying solution is to partner with a global infrastructure provider like NetActuate. NetActuate is already in every global market, with established partnerships, or people that can fly in at a moment’s notice to manage issues. Otherwise, you might have to negotiate contracts with a bunch of different providers, which all use different currencies. Again, this can get extremely time-consuming, and often expensive. By using a single provider like NetActuate, you can simplify currencies and language barriers. Learn about NetActuate’s global colocation options here

If you’d like to speak to an expert who can explain if all this makes sense for your infrastructure strategy, schedule a call with a NetActuate engineer today.