In today's fiercely competitive environment, any business – small, medium or large – can succeed only if it keeps business continuity, which in turn, is mostly dependent on automated data handling systems. In the wake of recent natural and other calamities, companies have increased their investments in highly secure storage and retrieval systems for their data.
For companies whose core business is not IT, it makes better business sense to outsource the storage and maintenance of these systems. This strategy allows them to save time and money while harnessing the power of IT as a force multiplier for their core business.
What is a data center?
A data center is simply a room that facilitates the storage and management, of servers and other computing equipment of any company in a precision-controlled environment. But for small and medium businesses, an in-house data center is an expensive proposition in many ways:
- High initial investment in space and equipment
- High day-to-day management costs
- Hiring and retaining personnel to maintain the data center
- High cost of upgrading technology and acquiring newer services
In this scenario, it becomes far more economic to outsource this service to a colocation data center.
What is colocation?
A colocation (also known less popularly as 'co-location') data center is a facility where the servers and other computing equipment belong to different companies share space. Each company's equipment is physically secured in a wire cage or cabinet with high security locking systems.
Colocation offers businesses several advantages with regard to time and money.
- You do not have to worry about recurring capital costs if you are upgrading since you can rent more space (or give up space if you are downsizing)
- You are saved the expense of hiring and training your own person to operate and maintain your systems. If you have to upgrade, having your own person means additional training costs or paying outside consultants.
Who uses colocation data centers?
The answer is: almost any company which business continuity is dependent on smooth access to flow of data and for whom system downtime is not an option.
- Web-based e-commerce companies use the colocation data center facilities to ensure a safe environment for their equipment, plus economic and redundant connections to the Internet
- Major non-IT entrepreneurs use the facility for economic data storage and management, as well as safety from disasters
- Telecommunication companies use colocation data center facilities to exchange traffic with other telcos and also to provide reliable access to potential clients
Facilities at Colocation Data Centers
Colocation data centers offer physical space on lease to customers for housing their servers and other computing devices. You install your servers and / or other telecommunication equipment in the physical space leased from the data center. The leased space is typically complied with either full cabinets or portions of a cabinet measured in Rack Units or RU (1RU correspondents to 1.75 vertical inches of space). Much larger spaces, like a caged section of a room or complete private rooms or suites, are also available depending on your requirements.
All leased space is supported by:
- Precision-controlled air-conditioning systems with incorporated redundancy
- 24×7 power back-up systems for all equipment to ensure zero downtime or minimal disruption in operations due to power failure
- High-capacity, reliable power generators
- State-of-the-art fire detection and suppression systems to guard against potential losses due to fire
- Sophisticated onsite security through surveillance cameras and advanced biometric systems to prevent unauthorized entry
- Networking equipment including state-of-the-art, fully redundant high-end switches and routers, BGP4 routing for optimal path selection and full redundancy, etc
Most colocation centers also offer SLAs (service level agreements) to support a host of computer and networking services like server reboots, software updates, hardware repairs / replacements, disaster recovery, etc.
Advantages of colocation
- Financial Gains: Small and medium companies have a lot to gain by opting for colocation. For one, there is an intense amount of money to be saved (between 25% -75%) on infrastructure, technology and human resources. This leaves them free to concentrate on their core business areas.
- Better Connectivity: Acquiring and maintaining a T1 line or a fiber optic line to connect your networks is an expensive proposition. Moreover, if your ISP turns out to be unreliable, you could lose valuable business. Provisioning a T1 or fiber optic line at a colocation data center is economic and most centers support multiple ISPs through fiber optic lines or VSAT. Also, colocating mission critical servers at data centers with fully redundant network connections ensures that business critical applications will always run smoothly.
- Easy disaster recovery: Data centers also create disaster recovery sites. In the event of a snag with the primary server, the entire network automatically switches to an alternate mirrored site within a few minutes. So outsourcing disaster recovery also costs much less than what it would set up it up in-house.
- Improved Network security: Most data centers offer state-of-the-art network security, including fully updated firewalls / IDS applications to detect and prevent unauthorized intrusions into their clients' systems. They employ qualified technical personnel with certifications like CCNA and MCSE to monitor the networks 24X7 and alert clients of any potential trouble.
In the wake of disasters like 9/11 and other natural disasters, depending on a single office to keep business-critical applications running is risky. Most companies are now taking steps to plan for such events by implementing a disaster recovery plans that include colocation facilities inside internet data centers. Data centers provide the best data management, system maintenance and up-to-date security services without the issues that accompaniment owning and operating a similar facility.
By utilizing collocation services in a data center facility, you will realize an immediate benefit in terms of costs saving and improved redundancy.