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Making a decision on how to handle your IT Infrastructure can be a difficult one and one in which requires some planning. It is important that you understand all of your options before purchasing or renting your equipment.
One of the most common problems in communicating the value of managed colocation is undervaluing the time and cost of keeping your server up and running. Sure the cost of buying a server is relatively inexpensive but the costs to operate it can be overwhelming. There are many factors that go into the costs of operating a server but they all fall into one of four categories:
These categories make it easier to explain the difference between managed and unmanaged colocation because the costs associated with each service can help you decide which service is right for you.
Housing and Protecting – This covers where the server is being stored, the power being supplied to it, the network keeping it online. It also includes any firewall or threat management system keeping hackers away from your server as well as features of the data center, such as raised floors and fire suppression, that help protect your server.
Monitoring and Tracking – This covers the monitoring of operating characteristics like disk space and RAM usage as well as the messaging system in order to alert the owner of the server if something is deemed to be out of the normal range.
Responding and Repairing – This covers any services that are necessary when your server malfunctions. These can include troubleshooting and remediation services as well as part replacement.
Preventative Measures – Besides the protection to your server mentioned in “housing and protecting”, preventative services like on-site or off-site backup help ensure that your data will always be recoverable.
Colocation is a service offered by data centers to house and power your servers at their own location. This can have several benefits depending on the services included by the data center operator you choose. At the bare minimum, colocation involves a place to house your server, the power to run it, and the connection to operate it online. Those services can be expanded upon to include everything necessary to not only get your server up and running but ensure that your server is working 100% of the time without any work from your company.
Colocation can provide you with many benefits, mostly due to the fact that you can take advantage of a data center’s significantly “bigger” infrastructure without paying for it up front. This can have significant impacts on uptime, deployment time, and security. It can also help with cost forecasting and planning as your contracts become “known costs” and can help you make decisions easier, faster, and safer. Scalibility is another important benefit when outsourcing your IT infrastructure as you can continue to add servers without increasing your head count or having to build additions to your own larger data center.
The main difference between colocation services and dedicated server services is that a dedicated server is owned by the data center whereas with colocation services, the servers are always owned by the client. Dedicated servers usually include many more server-side services that ensure your server never experiences downtime than standard colocation services but with some managed colocation offerings, much of the same services are applied.
Unmanaged colocation usually takes care of only the first category of server costs, “Housing and Protecting.” This is a hands-off type of service that allows you to take advantage of a data center’s infrastructure, but you are solely responsible if something were to go wrong with your server (ex. your server runs out of memory). Unmanged colocation services tend to vary from data center operator to data center operator but typically provide a safe and secure place to house our server. Features of a data center that factor in to the quality or their tier classification are the following:
The more “disaster proof” a data center becomes, the higher data center tier it is (ranging from I-IV. IV being the highest). A Tier I data center is considered to be the most prone to failures and downtime whereas a Tier IV data center has the infrastructure in place to be the least prone to failures and downtime with a high amount of redundancy put in place, both on the network and power side.
Depending on the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with your data center provider, they can often guarantee a very high percentage of power and network availability (upwards of 99.9%). Depending on how critical uptime is to your company, a good look at your provider’s SLA is a often a must.
Besides the infrastructure of the data center, the main costs drivers and therefore price motivators of colocation are:
When looking at unmanaged colocation, these are the four things you want to have a good grasp of going into the purchasing process.
There is usually a wide variety of services that fall under “managed colocation” but all start with the previously mentioned unmanged colocation services as a base. The managed colocation services tend to cover at least one of the cost categories mentioned previously. With unmanaged colocation, the server owner is still responsible for monitoring and tracking, responding to and repairing problems with their server and taking preventative measures like backing up their data. Managed colocation outsources many of those operations to a data center operator that can offer those services at a lower cost then a company could deploy by themselves.
These services can include:
These services, when executed properly, can be very valuable to an organization and provide peace of mind that their servers have the proper procedures behind them to reduce the risk of downtime or lost data to as close to zero as possible. Managed colocation provides the flexibility to decide what services and procedures you want to outsource and which you want to have more control over.
This flexibility creates an ideal environment for companies that want their servers in a secure and reliable environment with their data backed up but may want to have more control over a situation, were something to go wrong. Managed colocation allows you to pick and choose the services you want and creates a more customizable solution then a traditional dedicated server.
If you own your own servers and are looking to achieve the same level of support as that of a dedicated server, managed colocation is a great option. Just make sure that you understand which services you are receiving and which are still your responsibility. Managed colocation is currently being used as a term to describe any sort of level of support beyond unmanaged colocation so make sure you know what you are getting when you sign up with a managed colocation provider.
These are all very important questions to ask your managed colocation provider and should not be overlooked. When it comes to managed colocation, you want to be absolutely sure you are getting what you pay for and not anything less. It may be easier to customize but it also makes it a little more confusing.
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