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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 Latency
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 alone.

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