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5 Reasons Your Business Still Needs a Physical Data Center

By: Ernest Sampera on February 18, 2020

Cloud computing may dominate conversations about how companies can facilitate their digital transformation, but simply embracing a purely cloud-based solution may not meet the needs of every organization. In fact, there are several reasons why many companies still need a physical data center. Some of them may still manage their own private data center, but most are increasingly turning to colocation providers to meet their evolving IT needs.

5 Reasons Your Business Still Needs a Physical Data Center

1. Control

One of the most difficult things about moving data and applications into the cloud is handing control over the IT environment to a cloud provider. When a company colocates servers and other equipment in a data center, it retains full control over those assets. If it needs to make adjustments to configurations or adjust security parameters, it can simply make those changes directly. Managing physical servers also provides total visibility into how equipment is using power, bandwidth, and cooling, making it easier to optimize deployments and identify inefficiencies to reduce costs. Since all sensitive data is stored in those servers, companies can strictly control access to both of them, which allows them to implement whatever security policies they deem necessary for their business.

While cloud providers offer some level of transparency, the fact remains that they retain control of the servers that support the cloud environment. For many organizations, no amount of policies and uptime SLAs can overcome concerns that they must ultimately trust the cloud provider to manage the infrastructure undergirding their IT systems. If the cloud provider suffers a security breach of any kind, sensitive data could be exposed and put cloud customers at risk. By colocating servers in a data center, companies can avoid being at the mercy of a cloud provider’s oversights or mistakes.

2. Reliability

While cloud services are often incorporated into backup and redundancy strategies, they often don’t provide the most reliable foundation for risk mitigation. Amazon’s AWS cloud platform, for instance, only offers a 99.99% uptime SLA. This might sound impressive, but it actually means that even in a best-case scenario, they expect their systems to be down a little over four minutes each month. In reality, however, this number is probably quite a bit higher. That’s because the uptime SLA simply lays out the expectations of uptime and stipulates when the provider must compensate customers for periods of downtime.

Compared to a colocation data center that’s engineered for perfection and offers a 100% uptime SLA, cloud services can often feel spotty at best and unreliable at worst. Cloud customers are typically hosted on virtual machines running on servers tucked away in a massive hyperscale data center. When something goes wrong, they’re unlikely to get the same attention as a data center tenant who is colocating servers within a facility. More importantly, that facility most likely has a rock-solid infrastructure that incorporates multiple redundant systems and offers extensive risk mitigation services to its tenants. This makes a physical data center a far more reliable choice than cloud providers when it comes to safeguarding mission-critical assets.

3. Legacy Applications

Cloud computing services offer state-of-the-art infrastructure and platforms for customers looking to host data and applications. That’s all well and good for companies that are building their IT environment from scratch, but it may present problems for customers with existing IT systems. As anyone who has tried to migrate applications from one environment to another can attest, getting legacy systems to work seamlessly with modern cloud computing environments often leads to unexpected and potentially unresolvable problems. While some applications can be migrated into the cloud using lift and shift strategies, many of them require extensive re-architecting to take advantage of the core benefits of cloud computing.

For organizations that have long hosted their own IT systems, migrating to the cloud may not be worth the hassle. The transition could result in the loss of core functionalities or undermine existing technology strategies. For these companies, colocating equipment and legacy applications in a physical data center that provides a direct on-ramp to cloud services is an ideal solution, allowing them to retain their essential IT systems without sacrificing access to the expansive power of cloud computing.

4. Predictability & Flexibility

In addition to sacrificing control, moving to the cloud can put customers at the mercy of policy and pricing changes. While cloud migration does allow them to convert the CapEx of physical equipment into a regular OpEx, cloud providers change their pricing structures regularly, which can leave companies paying far more than they’d expected a few months after they’ve transitioned to the cloud. Cloud providers can also make adjustments to their terms of service, potentially altering the way they handle customer data in ways that are simply unacceptable for some businesses.

Unfortunately, getting out of the cloud can be a complicated process. Depending on the provider’s policy, customers may not be able to repatriate their data in a usable format or without paying steep costs to migrate it to another destination. In a physical data center, however, customer data is stored and managed in their own equipment. If the facility changes its pricing structure, there’s nothing to stop colocation customers from unplugging their servers and taking their business elsewhere. That means data centers have a vested interest in delivering services at a predictable price point and are more likely to work to address customer needs to retain their business.

5. IT Support

Today’s leading cloud computing providers have a huge number of customers. While most of them do their best to provide support, they often lack the resources to address everyone’s needs promptly. When something goes wrong with a company’s network, it needs the issue to be addressed immediately. But this can also apply to less critical troubleshooting situations. If a new application isn’t functioning as expected within a cloud environment, it may take quite a while for developers to get an answer from the cloud provider’s support team.

Colocating assets in a physical data center may mean moving equipment off-site, but it also means gaining access to expert support from data center remote hands personnel. If a server goes down at 2 am on a Saturday or some other IT emergency presents itself at an inopportune time, someone can physically inspect the equipment and resolve the issue quickly. More importantly, colocation customers can still access their servers and other hardware directly.

Although cloud computing has become a core component of almost every company’s technology strategy and allowed them to pursue a genuine digital transformation, there’s often no substitute for retaining access to physical IT systems. Whether an organization has specific compliance needs, needs to retain direct control over its data, or is prioritizing risk mitigation, physical data centers offer a number of advantages that purely cloud-based solutions can’t match. And given the connectivity options available through a carrier-neutral data center, customers often don’t have to sacrifice much in the way of cloud computing to retain a physical IT presence.

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