Most companies don’t open their doors with the idea of building and overseeing an IT empire. Unfortunately, as computers become central to more and more business processes, that’s exactly what’s happening. This is true for companies of every size, from small engineering firms with a couple dozen employees to multinational corporations. Many are now looking for alternatives, and there are lots of choices. One of the best – particularly as a first step in getting free from the burden of IT management – is colocation.
Because there’s a lot of confusion about the various forms of IT outsourcing, a definition is in order. Colocation simply means renting space in a facility designed to house IT equipment. As a colocation customer, you own the hardware. This is the key differentiator between colocation and other options such as managed services or a public cloud. The colocation provider supplies everything else you need for the physical operation of your hardware. This typically includes:
- rack space
- an internet connection with a pre-determined bandwidth allotment
From a financial perspective, colocation quite simply costs less in many situations. You can avoid some capital expenses, e.g. a back-up generator in case there’s a power failure. You may also benefit from the special rates on bandwidth many colocation providers are able to offer.
Operationally, you don’t have to deal with any of the maintenance related to physical infrastructure. In fact, you may well benefit from an infrastructure that’s superior to what you can provide. The better colocation sites maintain a very high level of physical security with fences, biometric access control and even guards on patrol. Some providers offer dedicated suites to which their own employees have no access.
Colocation providers offer various levels of power, cooling and internet access redundancy to ensure 24/7 availability of these basic resources. Again, these backup resources may be superior to what individual companies can provide for themselves. For companies with larger IT infrastructures, colocation will free up space that may be needed to accommodate growth.
Finally, the colocation option means that IT departments can configure and tune servers to ensure maximum performance and reliability given the specific applications that are running on them (with managed services, this isn’t possible, since you don’t actually own the servers running your applications and the exact server you want may not be available). In this regard, it’s important to note that with colocation, you are responsible for dealing with server maintenance functions (such as reboots should a server crash), although many colocation providers will offer “remote hands” to perform these basic functions.
In addition to these tangible benefits, there is another that can be very important: control. With colocation, you don’t cede decision-making about your servers or storage devices to a third party. Colocation is growing in popularity for a reason. It’s an ideal solution for companies that want to rid themselves of infrastructure costs while maintaining a hands-on posture when it comes to the critical applications that support their business.