September 20, 2018

Perhaps you’ve been hosting your own site for years on the server sitting underneath your desk and you’ve had it. The last time it snowed, the power to the office was off for a day and a half, killing your e-mail, website and all intranet communication.

So now you are thinking about outsourcing — but after checking around, you discover that a typical “shared” Web hosting plan is too “small business” for you. And a “dedicated” offering pretty much requires buying a lot of equipment that you already have and re-provision a lot of applications already running on your server. So your options seem to be: waste a lot of money on services that you’ve already paid for; scale down Internet-based services; or to keep your server underneath the desk.

That is, unless you’ve considered colocation. Originally a term invented by telephone companies to describe equipment put into existing telephone switching facilities, colocation has grown to mean paying a professional hoster for delivering rack space, bandwidth and rudimentary monitoring. It is designed for customers looking for a reliable place to hook up their servers to the Internet – but nothing more.

Colocation Advantages

  • Your servers are now hosted in a facility that probably has a dual fire suppression system, battery and diesel power backup, biosensors and mantraps. In other words, your servers are in an environment where their operation can’t be easily interrupted.
  • You don’t have to change anything with your existing setup. In fact, you could use an overnight delivery service to send your server to the new provider as is, and have on-site technicians hook it up.
  • You will probably have better connectivity with your website since the server it is on has a much better connection to the Internet than it did in your office, as most large data centers are connected directly to Internet backbones that make up the Web’s core.

Colocation is not cheap although it tends to be less expensive than the amount you pay for dedicated server service. An important aspect of a colocation price quote is the bandwidth available. What service providers tend to do is to meter bandwidth going in and out of your server. Some give you colocation for free if you agree to pay per Megabyte rate.

The deal to look for is a fixed bandwidth offer in which a flat monthly fee covers most of your needs – colocation and traffic.

Beware of offers that sound too good to be true. A classic Silicon Valley tale of deception was an offer for a nickel a Megabyte, plus free colocation. It was popular with early providers but users who bought into the “free” aspect of the service ended up paying twice as much via hidden bandwidth charges as users that paid for colo and bandwidth.

Potential Pitfalls

  • Pricing can be deceptive. The reason is that besides gaining access to a data center, customers need access to an Internet backbone, which is typically a metered service. Pricing models built around metered bandwidth could contain hidden charges.
  • Colocation is limited. If you ship your server to California, you may find that the service provider hosting it may require additional fees for simple things like rebooting your machine.
  • Your total expenses on server-related services will probably be higher as you are likely to pay more for server bandwidth and you are adding the bill for actual colocation.

Ultimately, the question of whether to outsource your server colocation is tied to the question of how much uptime you really need from your Web server and e-mail. To simplify the business problem even further — how much money do you stand to lose if your e-mail is not working for a couple of days and your site goes dark?

If you’re like most businesses these days, an Internet outage would halt your work flow, so colocation is definitely something to consider.

This is not something you have to tackle alone. Our office can help with colocation and other Web-based services. We can help find a warm space on a rack waiting for you.

© 2018