Colocation is a popular option for organizations that want a degree of control over server hardware and software but without the costs inherent in starting up an in-house operation.
Here are some facts that can help those who are considering colocation hosting against other possibilities such as conventional web hosting, cloud hosting, dedicated server hosting and in-house server operations.
• Colocation provides limited infrastructure
• Savings will depend on organizational expertise and efficiency
• Colocation hosting typically provide support services
• Security and redundancy can vary widely depending on provider
Typically, colocation hosting providers only offer space for servers along with connectivity and the surrounding environmental infrastructure. However, the clients must typically use their own hardware and software.
If an organization does not have its own servers and server software, then they will need to make such investments in most cases. However, there are colocation hosting companies that will rent both hardware and software to clients.
Even if the client must invest in new servers and software, colocation still offers significant advantages when compared to starting up an internal data operation. A data center not only requires space, but there are a large number of other requirements to consider including server cooling, power backup, data storage backup and security.
For a large number of servers, the cooling problem alone can be quite expensive for the average small business. Often it may require structural modifications to existing offices. If the cooling system fails, then it could cause permanent damage to the servers.
Power system backup can also be quite expensive. Many colocation facilities will provide onsite power generation in addition to the utility power connection.
Additionally, they may offer uninterruptible power supply (UPS) battery systems. The cost of this type of setup for a small organization can be prohibitive.
Security for an in-house operation is another cost to consider. Not only must the data center have protection against hackers in the form of firewalls, anti-virus protection and real-time monitoring, but it must also consider the possibility of natural or manmade threats.
Colocation facilities can have state-of-the-art fire detection and suppression systems. The entire premises may have security layers starting with a perimeter fence or wall. Access control can involve keycard type security and staffed security desks. Again, these types of costs can easily overwhelm a smaller company.
The key to getting the most out of colocation hosting is to operate the co-located data center at near-optimal efficiency. Otherwise, it may make more sense to use other options like cloud hosting or managed hosting.
If the organization has limited experience with server operations, it will take time to develop the expertise and efficiency required for an optimized data center. However, if the company already has employees experienced with servers, the lag time can be much shorter.
In order to get the best use of the hardware and software system, the team must have experience will current conditions in the web-serving environment. Additionally, the web servers should be of high quality as cloud services and other hosting providers will often be using state-of-the-art equipment.
The cloud host provider distributes overhead costs among all users of the system. In most cases, each user only pays for the resources that they actually use. That is a very efficient system to compete against using colocation services.
However, there are definite advantages to colocation as it provides many of the same benefits of running an in-house operation but at a lower cost. For example, the client will have full control over the servers at all times.
The client will know exactly how much capacity they have and all of their equipment works in a dedicated matter for their organization. With a cloud service, the client must trust that the provider will have the resources to meet demand. While many cloud hosting providers will make great claims regarding their capabilities, clients may find the service lacking in reality.
Colocation allows the client to acquire skills and expertise in server operations that they can later put to use in an in-house operation or as an offered service.
Of course, if the organization already has equipment and trained personnel, colocation allows for leveraging these existing assets in a cost-effective manner. Why hire a cloud service, for example, if the company already has many new first-class hardware servers available?
One possible scenario is that a company with an in-house data center may decide to co-locate in order to reduce overhead costs.
Many people believe that colocation services leave the customer on their own without any type of support. However, the reality is that most providers have 24/7/365 customer and technical support.
Of course, there are teams at the facility to run and monitor the power, communication and security systems. However, in most cases, the provider can also offer direct support for clients onsite or via phone, web chat and similar services.
Indeed, some colocation providers even offer managed hosting for clients. In these instances, the client will provide the servers and software while the host manages both for the client on a 24/7 basis.
The reality is that the colocation facility already handles much of the hard work. For example, providing continuous power for the servers and making sure that the server rack areas stay cool. Providers will also handle monitoring of the communication lines and they are responsible for full site security.
Many colocation companies will have expert teams onsite that can help clients when they are having hardware or software problems. In this way, inexperienced organizations can benefit from the instruction and tips provided by the hosting company.
While some colocation hosts will provide all the necessary infrastructure including even servers and server management in the best cases, the situation can vary widely depending on the provider.
Basic colocation companies may only provide a server rack and an Internet connection with an ordinary electricity outlet. They may have no redundancy to guard against power outages, for example.
Top facilities, on the other hand, may have a single UPS for each server. Onsite generation can include rooftop solar cells, fuel cells and gas generators. For cooling, they may have access to onsite artisan wells in addition to the utility water supply. Some providers may have special ventilation setups that make use of natural winds in the area.
A very basic colocation service can offer no security other than a regular lock on the door. However, the best providers will have multiple layers of security to safeguard client equipment and data. The provider, for example, may monitor the site using closed-circuit television systems with motion detection.
The best facilities will have onsite security guards at key access points or even patrolling the premises. While it may seem that first-class options will be more expensive, this is not necessarily the case.
In some instances, smaller providers must pay more because they depend on a very limited number of clients to pay their overhead bills. However, very large facilities with excellent features can distribute costs over a much larger client base. They will also be able to get better rates for resources based on “bulk” usage discounts.
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