We get a lot of questions about colocation from our customers and prospective customers. Questions like, “what is colocation?”, “why should we consider colocation?”, and “what should we be looking for in a colocation facility?”. Well, we figured, why not talk about all this on our blog? It’s something that could have awesome benefits for your business, but isn’t something everyone knows a lot about.
I want to start off by answering the biggest question:
What is colocation?
Colocation is the act of housing your business hardware in a secure, off-site, facility outside of your office. This is done by moving your hardware to a separate data center, one that is possibly controlled by your IT provider in their office, or a dedicated data center like Data Foundry here in Austin.
Now a common follow up question to this is: why move everything to a data center, why not move it to the cloud?
Well, let me start by saying that choosing one or the other isn’t really necessary. There are many businesses that have part of their IT infrastructure in the cloud and the other part physically colocated in a data center. This decision really depends on your business and what is required by your systems and software. If you’re small and only use cloud based applications, and don't have a need for a physical server/hardware, fully operating in the cloud might be your best option. But if you’re bigger and your business has one or more servers and server based applications, looking at colocating your hardware could be a good choice. (See our post about cloud storage vs. file servers to see which is best for you!)
Alright, now that you know what colocation is, your next question is probably:
What are the benefits of colocation?
Reduced Infrastructure and Costs
Maintaining the infrastructure necessary to ensure your servers/critical hardware are always up and running is time consuming and costly. Between making sure you have generators in case of a power outage, to paying all the bills to run the server and keep the server room at the right temperature, and (hopefully) providing redundant connections, you’re going to be spending quite a bit. Colocation facilities are a really good option to eliminate a chunk of these costs. While you do still have to pay to house your hardware, there’s a good chance that charge is more cost effective than running your own internal data center.
Increased Reliability, Uptime, and Redundancy
Any reputable colocation facility will have the staff, processes, and systems to ensure reliable connections and constant uptime. These facilities will be equipped with redundant power supply, cooling, and redundant network connections. Ideally the power supply will be from two different substations, and have diverse water feeds with multiple backup generators to keep the facility and, by extension your hardware and data, up and accessible at all times.
Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery
Colocation helps ensure that all of your business critical infrastructure and data is secure in the event that something happens to your office, and even in the event of many different natural disasters or widespread power outages. These dedicated facilities can give you piece of mind that your business and data are always secure and you can continue working even if something unexpected happens.
A reliable data center will mean increased physical and network security for your infrastructure. Any good facility is going to have the latest firewalls, IDS/IPS systems, and will be compliant with the strictest security requirements for things like HIPAA, SSAE, PCI and other standards designed to protect data. These facilities will also be outfitted with physical security measures that will protect your data from anyone getting into the building that shouldn’t be there, and even major weather events. They do this using things like biometric security, intermittent checkpoints, gates, security cameras, and walls that have been built to withstand tornado level winds. This is why purpose built data centers can be such a benefit to your company when it comes to protecting data. Every detail has been thought about and planned for to make sure you’re up and running and secure at all times.
With a purpose-built data center you know that you’re going to have room to grow. Should your business need another server for a new application you’re using, or you need a special piece of hardware that doesn’t necessarily have to be in your office, just connected to your network, you will have the space for those things, without costly construction to expand what you have now, or the increased cost of keeping those things up and running. With colocation it’s as simple as saying “I need more space” and setting up the hardware.
Now that you know the benefits of colocation we come to the information gathering stage, where we get asked:
What Questions Should I be Asking a Potential Data Center?
- What SLA’s do they provide? What is their downtime response?
- How do they cool and power the facility?
- What security measures (both physical and network) do they have in place?
- Have they had any serious disasters/outages?
- Do they have space for your business to grow?
- Was it purpose-built or retrofitted to be a data center?
- What standards are they compliant with?
- What other services do they provide?
As a managed service provider for small/medium sized businesses here in Austin, we provide colocation services for many of our customers, and if this is something you’re interested in but aren’t sure where to start, please reach out! Our goal is to help Austin businesses use technology to their advantage and would love to see how we can do that for you!
For similar posts check out our master list of Small Business Technology blogs.