Colocation Center Service Advantages
Colocation centers or carrier
hotels offer the advantages of security, environmental control, reliable power and affordable bandwidth.
By: John Shepler
Many enterprises consider colocation hosting
as something suited for SMBs (Small and Medium size Businesses)
that can't justify the expense of their own server rooms and
the staff to maintain them. Indeed, hosting services and especially
virtual hosting services are so competitively priced that it's
hard to even consider doing it yourself. But there are major
advantages for larger companies to use co-location services,
even if they can do the same job in-house.
What is a Colocation Center
A major colocation center is different from someone who simply
offers low cost Web hosting. What distinguishes the colocation
data center, sometimes called a "colo" or a "carrier
hotel", is economy of scale, availability of telecommunications
resources, and sophistication of emergency and security facilities.
It's called a colocation center because multiple carriers and
multiple enterprise users are all located in the same facility.
Carrier Hotels were once limited to telecommunications
carriers who would have POPs or Points Of Presence in the building
and interconnect with other carriers in the "meet me"
room. Now large colos cater to businesses of all sizes that want
the advantage of proximity to carrier services plus the security
of round-the-clock staffing and backup power.
Available Services and Benefits
In a typical colocation center, you can rent everything from
rack space in partial to full relay rack increments, cabinets
and dedicated cages or locked rooms, depending on your needs
and budget. You have the peace of mind in knowing that your servers
and Internet appliances are under 24 hour guard by a security
staff that controls physical access to the building and monitors
what's going on at all times using security cameras. Cabinets
and cages will often have individual key locks in addition to
building access control.
Robust power supplies are also a feature
of colocation centers. Most have battery backup so that the electronic
equipment is shielded from power dips and spikes. In the event
of a transmission line loss, diesel generators start automatically
to run the facility until utility power is restored. Some colos
even bring in power from two transmission lines to improve reliability.
Environmental control is as important as
power conditioning. A large facility will carefully control both
temperature and humidity with redundant HVAC (Heating, Ventilation
and Air Conditioning) systems.
Certainly you can create this type of environment
in your own data center and probably will. Even so, large companies
will use colos to create redundant facilities so they won't be
shut down if disaster strikes their own facilities. If a fire,
flood or windstorm strikes your town, you could be out of business
for days or weeks. With redundant offsite facilities, you may
be able to switchover to your backup system without customers
even being aware there is a problem.
Bandwidth Pricing Advantages and Low
Another major advantage of colocation centers is that they provide
ready access to reasonably priced bandwidth. As your business
grows and your bandwidth demands exceed what you can get with
T1 and bonded T1 lines, you may find higher bandwidth increments
expensive and hard to come by. Major cities tend to be well connected
with infrastructure, but smaller towns don't necessarily have
fiber optic rings in place. Even if fiber is close by, costs
to extend it to your building might be extensive.
This type of problem is relatively unknown
inside a colocation facility. One or more major carriers establish
a point of presence within the building and can easily drop a
line to your rack or cage. In fact, copper and fiber cabling
is one of the services colos provide. You should be able to get
whatever level of service you need, from T1 and DS3 bandwidth,
Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, GigE and 10GigE, and OC3 to OC192 protected
SONET rings. You may also be able to arrange for "burstable"
bandwidth that automatically accommodates brief peaks in bandwidth
usage. Being physically close to the carrier also means less
packet latency for applications that are sensitive to this.
It should also be noted that there is a
competitive advantage in being located within a wire drop of
multiple carriers with a colocation center. Bandwidth is plentiful
and construction costs are minimal. That means good deals on
the bandwidth you need. It may even pay for you to move your
facilities to the colo center based on the cost savings of bandwidth
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