More and more businesses are trying to find an alternative to having servers at their premises, with all the associated costs of special environments and expensive technicians to look after them. Colocation services can be a great solution. Servers can be sent to a data centre where a range of services will be available. The data centre provider can give a complete managed service, or the business can maintain a more “hands-on” approach, carrying out management functions itself, albeit remotely. This introduction to colocation services explains their features and benefits.
Things to Consider
The location of the servers is a key question for businesses to ask a supplier. Data protection and privacy rules are tougher in the EU than in the US, and for some companies this is a deciding factor, so they select EU-based data centres. For financial companies, there’s often a need to reduce latency (delay caused by communications travelling down wires and through routers). These companies need servers that are located near the major markets and will be looking for facilities in or near London, New York, Tokyo or other large cities.
Security is another big issue that companies must be satisfied with before they co-locate their servers. The data centres with the highest security standards will have security staff on site 24/7, not just remote monitoring. The full range of security measures will include passwords, swipe entry cards to restrict movement through the facility and biometric identification of authorised staff. Loading bays are a key concern, and high-security data centres will have “man traps” - access control with an operator only able to exit once the entrance doors have closed behind them. Some facilities also have weight sensors which can tell if someone is bringing something in or carrying something out of the facility.
Some data centres can also interface to the security processes in use in the colocating business. For example, they can manage user authentication remotely via standard information security protocols.
There are also a number of compliance and accreditation standards which well-run data centres will have. SOC Type II reports are the result of an audit process and indicate the centre has achieved an acceptable standard.
Performance and reliability are what the users will notice, and these can both be improved by co-location. There are several reasons for this. Large data centres have access to multiple Internet Service Providers (ISPs), so they can switch from one to another instantly if there are problems. In addition, sophisticated data centres have their own software to improve performance. An example would be a route optimiser, which can monitor the IP network and solve issues on the network as they arise. So check the availability metrics and compare them between co-location operators before you sign up.
In some cases, data centre applications that are available to co-location customers include content delivery applications which optimise the user experience of audiences consuming streamed video or games - these are notoriously data-hungry applications.
If Chief Information Officers and network managers are honest, one of the things that’s acting as a driving force for using colocation services is the sprawling complexity of IT infrastructure and applications. There’s no sign that this is going away. In fact, businesses are increasingly forming alliances and partnerships with other companies and with customers and finding that in order to work together, they need to connect two completely different IT infrastructures. This can be expensive, complicated and time-consuming. A good option is to put both infrastructures into a data centre, where they can connect the separate networks in a flexible way.
All in all, colocation services are a way of managing IT that is going to becoming increasingly attractive to businesses that want to focus on their core proposition and customers rather than managing the increasingly complex IT world.