The basics of collocation. What you should know!

ColocationIn the web hosting industry, providers typically offer shared hosting plans, virtual and dedicated servers, cloud services and collocation services. Of these, collocation requires clients to own their own servers and collocate them in a data center.

Private Access lines

This is in contrast to firms housing servers in their own facility and running point-to-point Internet circuits for access to the Internet. Private point-to-point access lines can cost well into thousands of dollars per month, depending on the bandwidth that is required to maintain operability. Those lines are typically contracted for terms of 1, 2 or 3 years.

Rack mounted servers

A collocation provider, on the other hand, rents out space where businesses can mount their own equipment in racks. The collocation provider provides the power necessary to run those servers 24/7, adequate bandwidth so their sites run smoothly, plus all of the IP addresses – and the cooling systems to prevent overheating issues.

Geographic variances

The cost per rack unit decreases as a client contracts for more units. One rack unit may cost $59 per month whereby 42 rack units may only cost $1000 to $1500 per month. Cost also varies by geographic location. Data centers in the same town may have widely divergent pricing points based on prime real estate considerations. Quite often, businesses opt to collocate their servers in data centers close to their center of operations for fast access.

When parts fail and need to be replaced

This can come into play when a hard drive fails and needs to be replaced as quickly as possible. Not all collocation providers offer hands-on parts replacement as they typically don’t carry spare parts for all of the variations of servers that they’re hosting. If a server simply needs to be rebooted, most collocation providers will perform that free of charge. As well, many collocation providers offer crash carts, and allow their clients to store their own spare parts there.

The power variable

Power is also a major factor in determining final cost. Typically, power costs in the Midwest USA is lower in comparison to the West and East coasts. Newer servers use less power and are thus more efficient in a collocation environment. As you add more servers or rack units, the amount of power provided to the rack itself has to keep pace.

Redundant power is usually also available and that’s known as A + B power. In addition to backup UPS units and diesel fuel generators, A and B power sources provide additional power redundancy. It should be noted that not all collocation providers offer this redundancy.

Bandwidth variables

Bandwidth costs can be managed by negotiating set commitments, plus a burstable allotment – billed on the 95th percentile. At a collocation facility, there are normally multiple carriers to ensure optimum connectivity. Conversely, in-house network operation centers (NOC) normally only have one pipe to the Internet and if that goes down, so does the network. Another consideration is cost as it’s always more cost effective, in terms of redundant access, to collocate servers in a data center. For businesses that run mission critical applications online, downtime can be a make or break factor.

Port speed and latency considerations

Collocating servers allows businesses to benefit from economies of scale not be available to them in-house. Most collocation providers offer their clients port speeds of either 100Mbps, 1Gbps or 10Gbps, with the most common being 1Gbps. Running a fiber pipe to a private NOC is simply cost prohibitive for many businesses. As most collocation providers run a Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), network latency tends to be much lower (a good thing), while reliability is substantially higher.

CollocationAdditional protections available at data centers

Smoke, fire and moisture systems in data centers can alert support personnel on duty to their dangers. In-house facilities rarely employ 24/7 support staff as that also is cost prohibitive. At most, they may have support staff on call, but that doesn’t help when a water pipe breaks and floods their equipment while their support staff is enroute. Engineers in data centers normally monitor every system in real time, plus make routine rounds for a physical inspection of the facility.

Physical security

Data centers employ security systems that just aren’t feasible at in-house facilities, like CCTV monitoring, lockable cabinets, man traps and private suites. I’ve seen in-house facilities that are completely open to everyone, including the cleaning lady. Lets’ see what happens if I disconnect that cable? NOT!

Different tiers and classifications

Not all collocation providers have the same infrastructure or classifications. If you need for your center to be PCI or HIPPA compliant, those are classifications you should ask about prior to committing to a long term contract. As well, there are Tier levels with tier 1 offering less redundancy and tier 4 offering features more suitable for enterprise corporations hosting mission critical systems.

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