What is colocation? An in-depth guide to a to a modern process.
Colocation is when companies choose to place their servers and networking equipment with a 3rd party data centre. As your business grows, so too does your incoming digital traffic. More people look to access digital services from your website to your apps, and your workforce need reliable connectivity to perform their daily tasks. To manage these traffic volumes, businesses invest in servers to ‘serve’ each connected device with the information it needs to engage with the business. They are one of the most critical assets an organisation will ever own.
Well-maintained servers have the capacity to reduce business complexities considerably. They also have the potential to exacerbate them. In this piece, we look at one way modern businesses are ensuring their servers, serve their purpose.
Problems with IT equipment
Organisations choose to co-locate their servers so they can capitalise on the range of benefits from doing so. They also co-locate to avoid problems, including:
They take up too much space
At first, the fact that your IT equipment occupied an entire room was quietly accepted as part and parcel of running a modern business. However, as headcounts and physical assets grow in number, resentment often builds that these giant, dark blocks should dominate such precious space within your business’ footprint.
They’re vulnerable to disaster
The more a business begins to rely on its IT equipment, the clearer it becomes how catastrophic it would be were they to get damaged. Fire, flooding, structural failure - all could destroy them and potentially your business too.
With critical data and functionality lost, a business ceases to operate as it once did and the longer that is the case, the harder a full recovery becomes.
They’re susceptible to outages
For businesses that are particularly reliant on the internet, a sustained loss of power or connectivity can be disastrous. Not only does productivity grind to a halt, but as customers find they cannot access services, frustration builds.
To what degree that frustration builds depends on how long services are unavailable and how often outages occur. Lengthy or intermittent dark periods are often enough for customers to decide to take their trade elsewhere.
As a means of avoiding these problems, businesses instead turn to colocation.
What does colocation mean?
Quite simply, colocation refers to the practice of housing privately-owned IT in a secure external facility. Instead of storing the IT eqipment within a room or even floor within the office, businesses ‘co-locate’ their hardware by renting space in a colocation data centre, sometimes known as a third-party data centre.
What is a colocation data centre?
A colocation data centre is any large data centre facility that rents out rack space to third parties so they can house their servers or other network equipment. Colocation services generally include the power, cooling, and physical security and is a popular choice for businesses that may not have the resources needed to maintain their own data centre, but still want all the benefits.
Today, many colocation data centres have expanded their portfolios to support managed services providers, offering an array of solutions from IT assistance to data backup and network support.
What are the benefits of colocation?
There are multiple benefits to be had from co-locating your critical hardware in a colocation data centre, but the main ones are:
A few servers locked away in a cabinet or a dedicated room might be adequate when a business is just starting out, but as they grow, their infrastructure needs to grow in accordance. Likewise, a business could grow to a certain point and then experience a decline in customer demand that undermines investment made into extra equipment.
Through colocation, a business can agree service terms that allow it to scale whenever needed. Such flexibility allows colocation customers to devise long-term plans without courting the risk of making significant upfront investments in their own hardware.
Carrier and Cloud Neutral
Many colocation data centres are carrier-neutral, meaning they are not tied to any one service provider. This diversity creates cost-efficiency, optimal bandwidth, and the ability to switch providers depending on the business’ circumstances.
The reliability of critical IT equipment kept on-premise is often compromised by unstable power supplies and poor cooling systems. However, this is not the case for colocation data centres boasting unrivalled resiliency which comprises uninterrupted power supply (UPS), banks of batteries, and onsite generators.
The same is true for connectivity. Carrier neutral data centres offer multiple tier 1 carrier options with direct fibre coming into the data centre through various diverse entry points and a host of tier 2 carriers running on the back of these. Collectively, this ensure full resiliency and ‘always on’ connections.
Improved Resource Allocation
Managing a large number of servers on-site incurs significant operating costs. There’s IT staff who need to be sourced, trained, and paid, security needs to be bolstered, the hardware and cooling systems require constant power, and there’s still the issue of the space they take up.
By co-locating hardware in a data centre infrastructure, these problems become those of the data centre, allowing your business to focus on more mission-critical tasks. Capital that would otherwise have been spent on these various necessities can go into creating new opportunities and maximising your existing resources to further business goals. Plus, you’ll get all that extra room back.
Modern data centres are formidable entities. This is true for both to the physical facility – which must be disaster-proof – and to the safeguards and processes which prevent unauthorised access to equipment and the assets stored on them.
A colocation data centre will give you the option of installing cages around your racks and even access to dedicated private suites. Among an array of security measures, it is standard for highly trained security guards to be on patrol 24/7, for external and internal HD CCTV systems to be constantly recording, and for maintenance logs and testing schedules to be updated regularly.
What is a colocation agreement?
Once a business has decided that colocation is the right choice for their needs and have selected a colocation data centre, the next step is to sign a colocation agreement. But what is a colocation agreement?
In essence, a colocation agreement is a contract that stipulates the rights and responsibilities of the colocation data centre and their customer. An essential part of the agreement is the Service Level Agreements (SLA) contained within.
SLAs define the terms, scope, quality of the service to be provided, and establish uptime or availability for each service. It is vital that SLAs are understood before agreeing to as if they are later found to be vague or aren’t enforced, they can become a serious point of dispute.