We speak with with hundreds of clients each month about the option of colocation versus dedicated servers. In this article, we will define both colocation and dedicated servers and examine the pros and cons of each service.
Colocation is a service in which the client owns their own gear (servers, firewalls, switches, etc.) and places that equipment into a data center that offers rack space. Most data center colocation providers offer open racks, secure cabinet space and private cage/suites. With colocation, the customer is 100% responsible for setting up their own equipment and managing it. The colocation provider offers access to the rack space, power, ping and internet bandwidth. If the server(s) or any of the racked equipment malfunctions, the client is solely responsible for fixing it. Some colocation providers will offer to manage your equipment but this is usually a very trick endeavor unless you find the right provider.
On the other hand, dedicated servers are actually supplied and managed by the hosting provider. Instead of buying or using their own existing equipment, the client pays a month fee to lease or rent a server from the hosting provider. The hosting provider manages the equipment and will fix any server malfunctions. The client is given remote access to the server and they are solely responsible for content and any third party software. Some dedicated providers will also offer other additional managed services like OS patches/upgrades, back ups, storage, DBA, etc.
1) Great for clients who have technical server admins on staff.
2) Offers the most control and flexibility
3) Much cheaper than building your own tier 3 or tier 4 type data center unless you have deep pockets like Google or Amazon.
1) If you already don’t own equipment, buying multiple servers upfront is very expensive.
2) If something breaks at 2am, it is your responsibility to go fix it.
3) Clients with 1 or 2 servers typically share open rack space with other clients and this results in obvious security issues.
Dedicated Server Pros
1) Cheap initial start up costs.
2) Most providers are really good at troubleshooting and getting problems resolved quickly.
3) Fast – can uusually be up and running within a couple of hours.
Dedicated Server Cons
1) Less flexibility, some software may not be allowed on your server and some providers restrict root access.
2) Adding servers over time, starts to get really expensive.
3) Most providers will keep you on the same server for several years and your content could be performing better on more updated equipment.
4) For security reasons, most ultra conservative tech types would never allow their content to be on an outside servers especially if they are dealing with personal information, credit card info, etc.
Colocation versus Dedicated – The choice is yours. Both are great options compared to doing it all in house. To find the best dedicated server provider, please see our previous blog post on finding a dedicated provider.