If you need significant computing power but aren't interested in maintaining your own data center, colocation is an excellent option. However, there are drawbacks and challenges to this approach as well. Here's how to overcome some of the most significant.
If your organization needs more power than a dedicated server can provide but isn't quite ready for a full data center, then colocation hosting is likely your best option. With this hosting format, what you're renting is space, such as a server rack or a room. The host provides you with power, cooling, and connectivity, but assuming you haven't chosen a managed colocation plan, the rest is up to you.
There are plenty of benefits to this approach. Reduced cost is one of the most significant, providing you with significant resources at a fraction of what you'd pay to maintain those resources yourself. Platform and vendor availability are also huge draws, as large colocation facilities are often carrier-neutral.
It's not without its drawbacks and challenges, though. We're going to talk about three of the most common, and how they can be overcome.
If you're hosting in a reputable colocation facility, physical access will be tightly controlled. Like any good host, they will take security very seriously. This could pose something of an issue when it comes to scheduling maintenance, installations, and general access to your systems. Other facilities might limit the hours in which servers and racks can be accessed, further locking you out of your own hardware.
The solution here is simple. First, if you need direct access to your systems, ensure that the colocation facility you choose is not only nearby, but accessible 24 hours. You need to be able to quickly and easily access your racks if something goes wrong, and server issues don't work on a set schedule.
Second, establish clear-cut access policies for all staff, and ensure that everyone who needs to gain entry into your server room is equipped with an ID badge.
Differing Cost Structures
While the upfront cost of colocation may seem steep if you're migrating from a dedicated server, they're usually quite reasonable in the long-term. Where many colocation facilities vary from one another is in how their cost models are structured. They may charge for floor space, then add extra charges based on power, bandwidth, and more, leading to fluctuating costs and hidden charges.
Try to avoid any provider that isn't upfront about what it charges. Generally speaking, your largest expense should be floor space. Everything else should more or less be covered, excepting extreme circumstances.
If your organization operates in an industry that is subject to regulatory compliance, that means the facility in which it chooses to colocate must also be fully compliant. If it's not, this could easily result in steep regulatory penalties, possibly even lawsuits.
It's imperative that when you shop around for a colocation facility, you specifically choose one that understands your industry. If, for instance, you are in healthcare, you need to find a host that's been certified as HIPAA compliant by a third-party. Be sure to also ask the host several direct questions about what's involved in compliance for your vertical, just to be sure they understand what they're talking about.
Colocation Isn't as Hard as You'd Think
Whether you're looking to upgrade from a dedicated server or simply want to save time and money on maintaining extensive infrastructure, colocation is an excellent choice. There are challenges, of course, as with any hosting option. Understand them as you move forward, and you'll be just fine.