Lets look at the 5ws below.
What is managed colocation? The term Colocation refers to the provisioning of rack space for a client owned server(s) and network gear at a hosting company’s data center facility. The client pays a monthly fee to rent rack space, power and bandwidth. Most qualified colocation data centers are already equipped with state of the art redundant cooling, power and internet bandwidth. In a typical colocation only agreement, the customer is 100% responsible for managing the server equipment. If a server fails because of a hard drive failure, the customer needs to fix it. When there are issues with network or power, the colocation hosting provider handles that piece. With managed colocation, the data center provider takes the responsibility for the customer’s hardware. Depending upon the service agreement in place, some managed colocation providers will not only manage the server hardware but will also manage the operating system, applications and databases. In addition, other managed services can be layered on as well like security, back up and storage.
Who uses it? Managed colocation is the best fit for clients who want the independence of owning their own server(s) and those who require a certain level of server management expertise. Small and medium size companies like the cost-savings because it eliminates hiring an expensive IT technician. Larger enterprise firms utilize managed colocation when they require a certain level of expertise (ie.) MS SQL Admin or if they need to colocate company owned servers and network gear outside their internal IT support area of coverage for disaster recovery purposes, etc.
Where can you it? In the domestic US, managed colocation can be found almost anywhere but as the old saying goes – “Buyer Beware!” Don’t get me wrong, there are many qualified hosts out there but true client owned hardware “managed colocation” is hard to find. Just Google the term and you will find thousands of website options. RackSpace.com offers their version in which they provide and support the hardware and they give the customer full remote server access. In my opinion, this is NOT managed colocation. Back in the 1990s, that was called a “self managed dedicated server.”
When analyzing hosting companies, make sure to ask the provider what type of hardware and operating systems they support BEFORE revealing your type of equipment, etc. This will give you a better understanding of what their true level of expertise is instead of hearing the salesman say “yes” to all of your questions. Before signing an agreement, make sure you agree upon who is responsible for storing spare parts like extra hard drives and motherboards. Bottom line is you need to do some due diligence to find a true managed colocation provider.
When do you need it? We see a lot of companies switching to a managed service after a critical IT person leaves the company or is terminated. Others company use it when they require IT support out of their normal coverage area for a remote office or a secondary data center. Many clients enjoy owning and managing their own servers but don’t have specific skill sets for other managed service like firewalls and storage. Bottom line, if you or someone on your IT team can’t troubleshoot a server failure at 3am, you need managed colocation!
Why would you use it? Cost savings is the biggest factor. Utilizing a managed service eliminates IT personnel and functions. Buying servers for colo is sometimes more cost-effective than a long term dedicated server contract. Managed colocation allows for more time to be spent running your core business processes and not on server maintenance and repair. Finally, whether it is managed or unmanaged, colocation is always a better option than building an in house data center unless you have very deep pockets!
Even with all the cloud hosting and dedicated hosting options out there today, managed colocation will never go away. There will always be IT executives who need to buy their own equipment which is very similar to the pro/cons of renting or buying a home!