Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Everything you want to know about colocation - Part 1


Hello, I guess you’re reading this because you don’t know anything about co-location and you want to know everything, or you do know everything and you want to see how much I know, or you know a bit but need to know more. In any event I will attempt to explain, in simple terms what it all means and pose some hypothetical questions which I will then answer.

I suppose the starting point is how do we spell it? I’ve already referred to it and co-location and colocation – spot the difference? Some like to call it Co-Lo, colo or even collocation with a double ‘L’. At the end of the day it all means the same thing and Wikipedia has this to say about it;

“Colocation (business), the placement of several entities in a single location.”

Not very helpful I know, but essentially true.

The best way to illustrate what co-location is is to use a hypothetical example like this;

You have a computer which needs to be switched on all the time and be in a secure and controlled space which has the appropriate cooling and power backup systems to keep it up for as long as possible. You also need it to be connected to a high speed and reliable internet connection. Your own premises may not have the cooling, redundant power routes or a reliable internet connection so instead of keeping it there, you choose to ‘collocate’ it in a purpose built facility such as a Data Centre.

The reasons for colocation are many and varied and probably the most common application is web site hosting. As of November 2011 there were about 366,848,500 websites on the World Wide Web and most of these are sitting on a server somewhere, which is being collocated in a Data Centre. Other reasons may include online backup servers, hosted email services, SPAM / Virus filtering services, disaster recovery servers and many more. But, it all comes back to the fact that Data Centre’s are purpose built so as to guarantee a maximum uptime as if there was downtime then it usually means that someone is losing money.

The ‘Cloud’ is a recent buzz word and refers to making data and services available from the internet as opposed to a server or computer which is sat in your office. What the ‘Cloud’ or ‘Cloud Computing’ means is that the server previously sat in your office is now being collocated in a Data Centre, as it is often more cost effective to do it that way and due to the speed of the internet being so quick, we can now access that data and those applications in the same manner.

For some, the up-front costs of owning their own server can prove to be too expensive, which is why many Data Centres offer a server rental service which is often referred to as ‘Dedicated Servers’.  The cost of renting such a device can be spread over a number of months and they can be flexible in terms of the customer’s requirement, and in most cases would be built to a bespoke specification. They often come with a minimum contract term so that the Data Centre can ensure that they recover the original hardware costs.

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