What is server Colocation and How Does It Work?


Colocation is the lease of physical space and infrastructure for IT equipment in a data center. This service is of interest to companies that do not have the ability to ensure the presence and stable operation of servers on their own premises. What are the pros and cons of colocation, what is the service, and how to choose a provider? We will tell you about everything. 

What is colocation?

Colocation is a service provided by modern data centers. Its essence is that the client brings and installs servers at the data center. And the provider ensures efficient and uninterrupted operation of the hardware through the built infrastructure. Simply put, the service provider connects the server to uninterrupted power, cooling, and access to the World Wide Web. They are responsible for the safety of the equipment itself and the data stored on it.

Clients of such a center receive the following benefits:

  • reduced electricity and bandwidth costs;
  • high-speed network connection;
  • physical protection of the server from natural disasters and attacks by intruders;
  • 24×7 technical support.

That is, this service reduces the capital costs of the firm and guarantees the stability of the servers without much hassle. The organization can focus on its core business and the implementation of its business strategy, reducing the IT budget as much as possible.

How does colocation work?

Data centers that provide colocation services offer customers to bring servers to a specific physical building that is surrounded by a smoothly running developed IT infrastructure. Space at such facilities is rented out by the “squares”. The client rents a rack, closet, or cage, depending on the size of the equipment. Power cables and uplink ports are connected to the server. There is a cooling system in the room to prevent critical overheating of the iron.

All colocation systems work 24 hours a day, providing uninterrupted IT support. The provider takes responsibility for the security of the facility. And it also has protocols in place in case of emergencies, emergency failures, and so on.

Some companies choose multiple data centers to house servers. This can be due to geographical factors. For example, the firm has open branches in different cities. In this case, the “subsidiaries” of the organization transfer their servers to nearby data centers. They are connected for data exchange over the network. And some companies decide to place duplicate servers in different data centers to improve the security and safety of client bases.  

Choosing a provider 

When checking out potential providers, you need to be clear about what to look out for. For any business, the main priorities are 100% uptime and security. Of course, it is possible to find out the reliability of a service provider on your own. But it is much faster and more efficient to request certificates of conformity. Find out if the provider has been accredited and audited by an independent auditor. Experienced providers try to pass such audits to have an edge over their competitors.

Be sure to assess the physical security of the data center. Can you talk about the safety of the premises in case of natural disasters? Are there fire extinguishing systems installed? Is the perimeter protected against unauthorized entry? An inventory of the building requires an assessment of the state of the video surveillance system and the security checkpoint. Is multi-factor authentication required for access to the server room or can any employee get in with a simple plastic key pass? Be sure to check these options.

Make sure that the provider’s technical staff is working around the clock. This is important because control over the operation of the equipment must be uninterrupted. And also check whether the provider will undertake the service of restarting the server in case of an emergency shutdown. Otherwise, every time a failure occurs, you will have to send a specialist to the data center to perform this manipulation.  

Advantages of co-location

There are several reasons why businesses choose to host servers. The main factors, as a rule, are the capital costs associated with the construction and the need for subsequent continuous maintenance of the computing complex. If you don’t take care of this on your own premises, business continuity is at risk. Providers who offer colocation services build a continuous communication infrastructure for their own hardware and the servers of numerous customers. This allows for cost optimization. Other benefits of co-location for individual customers include: 

  • Ability to pay for the specific space that a rack or cabinet occupies in the server room.
  • Round-the-clock technical support for tactical response.
  • Connection to a stable network backbone for constant network presence.
  • Physical protection of the equipment from any attacks.

In order to provide all this on their territories, they will have to spend a lot of money.  

Disadvantages to consider

While listing the pros of co-location, it is impossible not to mention the disadvantages. For example, the remoteness of the data center and the company office leads to transportation costs. In fact, in some cases, the equipment will have to be configured manually.

If a provider is not connected to several network operators or has no power backup capability, they will not be able to provide 100% uninterrupted operation. But on the other hand, it is also impossible to achieve this on your own premises without serious financial investments. Of course, this is little consolation. Therefore, when signing a service contract, make sure that minimum uptime and other important indicators are specified in the SLA. 

Rack, cage, or separate office 

When the choice of provider is made, it remains to determine the best option for storing equipment. There are three of them. The difference lies in the size of the equipment, the budget of the organization, and security requirements.

The server rack or cabinet is installed on the floor in the room center. The construction has a lock to prevent unauthorized participation. The rack is installed next to other similar cabinets across the aisle. Racks are the cheapest option for storing equipment.

The cage is a frame around the customer’s racks. This increases the safety of equipment placement. The cage encloses a space that only the customer can access. The placement of server cabinets in a cage is chosen by companies that have higher demands on the level of equipment security.

A separate cabinet is a placement on the highest level of security. Accidentally or deliberately, but without the permission of the security service of the data center and/or the owner of the equipment is difficult to get into the caged cabinet. Alarm systems, multi-level authentication, special keys, and passes are all tools for protecting offices. Inside the isolated room, as well as in the server room, the necessary microclimate is maintained. This option is chosen by banks or government organizations.

To find out more about the options of accommodation in a particular data center, as well as about guarantees and services, you should ask the potential provider at the consultation stage.

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