Choosing a Colocation Facility: Know Your ABCs

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Choosing a Colocation Facility: Know Your ABCs

You may be considering a change in IT operations to move from in-house to a colocation facility—a solution that allows you to move your servers and network to a purpose-built, offsite location for housing and ongoing improvement. This is often the case when the benefit of moving your servers outweighs the advantages of running when onsite. Cost savings, resiliency, and efficiency are among the top reasons for a change to colocation.

“Reductions in operational expenditure and the ability to focus your IT team on your core business, means that data centers offer organizations the ability to maximize the potential within their businesses,” says Rowland Kinch for Data Center Knowledge.

Why Do Businesses Choose Colocation Over Other Strategies?

The reasons why businesses decide to work with colocation providers are as diverse as the companies themselves. Advantages of this approach include freeing up space on-premises, avoiding the expenses of revamping an old data center that no longer meets your needs, and peace of mind knowing your data is stored in a secure, monitored environment.

Businesses also explore colocation solutions when scalability is a priority. When choosing a colocation facility, you must think of the big picture. How will your business needs grow? Does the colocation provider facilitate fast infrastructure growth? What are their areas of expertise beyond providing you with space and power?

Understanding Colocation-Related Words and Definitions

All industries have specialized terminology (aka jargon) associated with them, and the colocation sector is no different. If you recently began researching colocation – related opportunities, some of the words you see may seem completely foreign.

However, it’s essential to get up to speed, so you understand the most common terms related to colocation when selecting a service provider. The average colocation contract is valid for three to five years, and if you aren’t familiar with the industry’s language before signing it, you could find yourself stuck in a situation that isn’t appropriate for your business.

The more informed you are, the more likely it is you’ll be aware of what you’re getting into and feel confident about having a long-term relationship with your provider. The glossary below should help you understand standard terms and apply them to your situation:

  • Compliant Colocation Facility: A colocation facility is a third-party data center that hosts private servers and offers power and bandwidth for your network. It’s an increasingly popular solution for businesses that do not want to spend the time and money required to create the necessary infrastructure. A compliant data center, however, has added controls in place that satisfy regulatory compliance standards, such as HIPAA and PCI. For instance, The Security Rule for HIPAA mandates technical safeguards in section 164.304 for technology, policy and procedures to protect health information.
  • Colo: This is the shortened name for a colocation facility or colocation provider. The term is often used among people who are familiar with data center lingo and know the people they’re speaking with are too.
  • Micro Data Center: a data center located in close proximity to networks and storage for frequently accessed data and fast processing for IoT data. As you may know, the location of your colocation center is important.
  • Disaster recovery facilities: A disaster recovery plan is only as effective as the operations and facilities that facilitate that plan. Disaster recovery facilities are a strategy to replicate and house critical data offsite to ensure its availability should something occur to your main site.“We’ve experienced that it made sense to collocate when an organization’s CapEx dollars were better spent on building [clinics] vs. building data centers. In that case, the client moved its disaster recovery facilities into a colo.” – Technology Writer, Karen Riccio, for AFCOM
  • Service-Level Agreement: Often abbreviated “SLA.” The SLA is an official document that spells out what a colocation provider or facility will offer customers. It also usually has a section that explains what the provider is not responsible for, such as handling maintenance privately owned equipment.

Some segments of the SLA, including portions that discuss guaranteed uptime and planned maintenance windows, are extremely specific and give customers details about how they will receive notifications about issues at the colocation facility.

Typically, there are lists of duties within the SLA. For example, the service provider is responsible for conducting service reviews annually to ensure their services are competitive, while customers agree to notify the colocation provider about decommissioned servers within a certain timeframe.

An SLA also usually has a section of exclusions to indicate things that are explicitly not covered in the agreement. Additionally, it’s common for an SLA to explain how customers will be informed if there are changes in the SLA after its been signed. If grievances result from those alterations, customers can follow a dispute resolution process, which is also discussed within the SLA. Here are some examples:

  • Noisy Neighbors: If you’ve ever lived next to someone who seemed to deplete your patience every day, you’re already familiar with the noisy neighbors concept in the colocation realm. A “noisy neighbor” for our purposes is a fellow colocation facility customer that’s using too many resources. Your SLA should explain how many resources are available to you and the procedure to follow if you start to consume too many or notice you have noisy neighbors.
  • Remote Hands: This is a supplementary service provided by a colocation facility that makes it possible to entrust server maintenance duties to their technical support team. Many businesses take advantage of this option to focus on in-house needs, so they don’t have to send their staff to perform simple tasks to the colo site at 3 a.m. (i.e. a system reboot). Think of remote hands as an on-demand extension of your IT team.
  • Interconnectivity: Interconnectivity is associated with a certain type of colocation service that provides customers with solutions for linking data stored in colocation facilities with public clouds.
  • Physical Security:This term refers to the level of security associated with the tangible colocation space. It may include aspects like security cameras, door codes, high-quality fencing and alarm systems.
  • Logical Security: Logical security is comprised of intangible safeguards that are often software-based—authentication, auditing, user management, security activity logs, encryption, firewalls—and protect an organization’s systems from unauthorized access.
  • Redundancy: Redundancy is the practice of planning and creating a reliable a colocation facility where, if one essential component fails, a backup activates before data is lost or compromised. This is applicable to power, cooling, and internet connectivity.

After studying the terms and examples above, you’re better equipped to choose a colocation facility and create a data center strategy intelligently, to meet your business objectives. Colocation enables you to benefit from efficient networking, resilient connectivity (at a fairly low price), and opportunities you may not otherwise be able to afford.


Additional Resources on This Topic:

10 Keys to Choosing a Data Center Colocation Provider
Choosing the Right Colocation Provider
Three Advantage of Choosing Colocation for Disaster Recovery

Photo Credit: martinlouis2212 Flickr via Compfight cc

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Fearless marketing leader with 10 years of experience in the cloud security and compliance industry and an affinity for Waffles.

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