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Understanding a Colocation Data Center and If It’s Right For You

By: Ernest Sampera on January 25, 2019

Today’s organizations have many options when it comes to managing their data. While some are opting for purely cloud solutions, the security concerns associated with the public cloud have pushed many companies toward using data centers as the basis for their IT infrastructure.

But what kind of data center is right for their needs? Should they use an on-premises or off-premises solution? A private data center or a colocation data center?

Regardless of their size, companies can benefit greatly from incorporating colocation into their IT strategy. To understand why, it’s helpful to provide a specific data center definition of what colocation is and how it differs from other arrangements.

What is Colocation, Anyway?

Colocation is a term that gets thrown around quite often but isn’t always clearly defined. Strictly speaking, the true definition of colocation is a situation where a company places its physical servers in a third-party data center. The facility takes on the responsibility for managing those servers on a day-to-day basis, providing power and cooling as well as handling some basic connectivity and maintenance issues that arise. In the traditional definition of a colocation relationship, the customer maintains ownership and control of the servers and everything on them. They essentially rent rack space and the infrastructure needed to run them and connect them to internet services.

Some customers prefer to rent physical servers from a data center instead of purchasing their own units. This doesn’t fit the definition of colocation hosting because the servers themselves belong to the data center, which limits what customers can do with them. In a colocation arrangement, customers have the freedom to do what they want with their servers, up to and including removing them from the facility if they’re not satisfied with the data center’s services. Since they own the servers that contain their data, migrating data from a colocation facility is as simple as unplugging the server and walking out the front door.

What Sets Colocation Data Centers Apart

Not every data center is set up to accommodate colocation services. Here are some considerations that distinguish them from private data centers:

  • Infrastructure: Colocation facilities are designed to accommodate a wide range of customer needs. Their infrastructure must be versatile enough to incorporate older legacy equipment and the latest in high-density server technology. They must also have the expertise to accurately assess a customer’s space, power, and cooling requirements to properly architect their deployment in the data center environment.
  • Remote Hands: When customers opt for colocation after looking at the differences between on-premises vs off-premises solutions, they want to feel good about their decision. That means having the assurance of 24x7x365 remote hands services that provide on-site expert technicians to keep systems up and running on a regular basis. If a server goes down in the middle of the night, colocation providers have the resources to address the problem immediately, sometimes before the customer even knows there’s an issue.
  • Interconnectivity: For companies that want to maintain the security of a private data center while also having the connectivity options to select the best ISPs and cloud service providers, colocation data centers offer the best of both worlds. As carrier-neutral facilities, colocation data centers can offer a wide range of services with the security of direct connections. They can also build hybrid and multi-cloud architectures to enhance both data security and cloud flexibility.
  • Site Monitoring: Since customers still own their servers in a colocation arrangement, data centers need to provide full transparency and visibility that makes it possible to monitor those assets. By analyzing reports and real-time metrics on traffic, power usage, and other efficiency stats, companies can work with their data center to optimize their networks for maximum effect and cost savings.
  • Deployment Assurance: Colocation data centers know how to provision infrastructure for future growth. Based on a company’s existing IT needs, they can predict where those needs will go over the course of the next few years. This can smooth the difficulties associated with infrastructure migrations and avoid the need for retroactive fixes down the line, both of which can translate into significant savings and increased versatility.

Is Colocation Right For You?

A 2018 IDG study found that about two-thirds of companies use colocation data centers to store at least some of their data. When it comes to on-premises vs off-premises data solutions, many organizations are opting for both, with more than 70 percent that rely exclusively on private facilities planning to migrate some data to a colocation data center in the near future.

The biggest factor driving colocation trends today is the need to establish backup and redundancy to protect companies from the threat of data loss. Many organizations are also turning to colocation data centers as a cost-effective way of expanding their network’s reach and capabilities. Data centers have the computing resources to accommodate big data analytics workloads, especially in the case of software-defined data centers (SDDCs), which can provide scalable virtualized server solutions at an affordable price.

For many companies, colocating translates into significant savings on IT infrastructure management. Since power and cooling costs are spread across the entire facility, colocation customers end up paying far less to keep their systems up and running than they would in a private data center. Furthermore, since colocation data centers handle the day-to-day care of their servers, companies can let their IT departments focus on improving their products and services instead of troubleshooting. Uptime reliability is also a major benefit of colocation since the data center is usually better situated to keep their systems up and running than the typical private data center (be sure to check the facility’s SLA).

As companies weigh the costs and benefits of on-premises vs off-premises data center solutions, more of them are taking advantage of colocation services. The combination of flexibility, cost savings, and reliability make colocation an enticing option even if a company decides to continue using a private data center as part of a broader data strategy.

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