Server Co-location refers to the practice of physically re-locating your server(s) from your office/ server room to a fully managed data center, outside your premises. In this article, we will see why it can be advantageous for companies to do that & what factors drive server co-location. We will also take a look at the limitations of server co-location and alternative technologies to server co-location.
What is Server Co-Location?
These days, its not mandatory to build your own data center to host your servers and applications. Especially, if you just have a few servers/users (or) your business requirements change dynamically. Business continuity is a critical factor these days, and any down time for important applications like ERP/CRM could mean loss of business opportunities. People are building data centers to ensure that their critical applications are always available. But smaller companies may not be able to afford all that capital investment to build their own data centers.
Server co-location services, might suit the smaller companies better because its possible to rent just the amount of rack-space/ power/ bandwidth required to host one (or more) servers in a service provider (shared) data center premises which already has multiple levels of redundancy (power, network, bandwidth, etc) built in to it to ensure high availability of servers and applications.
With Server Co-location, the servers often need to be purchased by the customers and sent to the server co-location service providers, so that they can host it in their racks. Installation and maintenance of Operating System and other software applications needs to be done by the customer as well. The data center server co-location service providers host multiple such servers from many customers in the same data center/ same racks.
Customers generally pay for the rack space, bandwidth – data transfer, power and any additional facilities they might avail from the co-location data center service providers, on a monthly or quarterly basis. The contracts are generally for one year, but some of them offer more flexible plans.
Advantages of Server Co-location:
Dis-advantages of Server Co-location:
Alternatives to Server Co-location:
Hosting the servers in your own server rooms/ data centers: This is the most obvious alternative. Hosting your servers yourself is always the best option, especially if you can achieve and maintain the reliability offered by data centers, in your own location. But smaller companies might find it quite expensive.
Hosting the applications on the Cloud: This is a more recent trend that is catching up pretty fast. A cloud hosting service provider creates all the infrastructure required for hosting servers (along with the servers), at their location. You could just upload your application(s) on their infrastructure and pay per hour/ total units of bandwidth consumed, depending on the service provider. This is an excellent option for companies which experience sudden bursts of traffic for their applications, as the capacity required can be instantly upgraded/ downgraded anytime. For heavy media intensive & global delivery based applications, Content Delivery Networks might be a good option.
Managed Server hosting: This is similar to server co-location, but in this case, the servers/ Operating Systems are also provided by the managed data center service provider and the customer pays a monthly/ quarterly rent for the infrastructure. But there are limitations to the available server configurations and operating systems supported by the vendors. The customers are responsible for installing/ maintaining the applications which run in the servers.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS hosting): This is normally not suggested for enterprise customers, but if there is a small application with a few users that needs to go online, and doesn’t require an entire server – this could still be a good option. In VPS hosting, hosting service providers host the servers and related infrastructure in their data centers, and allow different customers to share a single server but with shared resources like RAM/ hard disk capacity, etc. The processors might be common to all the customers (shared on equal sharing basis) and the customers pay monthly rental to utilize this service.