What is colocation?
Running a business today requires a lot of servers and equipment running seamlessly in the background. Even small businesses need websites, email, databases, payroll, and even monitoring systems to stay competitive, and make the day to day functioning of a business organized and safe.
So what are the options?
A. Host it yourself.
This option requires a solid internet connection with public facing IP’s, a place to put the equipment, and of course someone to monitor the health of the equipment after setting it all up. If it’s a small business with only a couple of servers, like a network file share etc this isn’t a terrible option. The costs stay low, and as long as they have a reliable IT person to do health checks every so often, not much more is needed. However when it takes more than one or two machines to run things, this can become a problem fast. The cost of running the equipment can be quite high. Servers can use a lot of power, which can exponentially increase electric costs. In addition, server equipment can really pump out a lot of heat, which requires air-conditioning to prevent overheating and shutdowns.
B. Use the cloud
Some companies use cloud based hosting, where they host their various needs on someone else’s equipment, usually virtual servers that have massive resources, which are shared among the various users. This option negates the cost of purchasing equipment, high electric usage, and cooling costs. It only requires an IT person who can deal with the software/programing needs, and leaves the rest to the cloud service provider. There are some issues with hosting on the cloud:
1) Cloud systems are bigger targets for cyber attacks
i. Since such large volumes of data are stored on clouds based systems, they are definitely more of a target for hackers and data thieves. Examples include the 2010 Microsoft breach, the 2012 hacking of 68 million Dropbox accounts, the 2014 breach of the iCloud releasing over 500 private images from celebrities accounts, and the 2013 Yahoo breach that compromises over three billion user accounts.
2) You’re giving a third party access to your data. No service provider is going to be as serious about protecting your data as you would be. And with increasing government surveillance programs, the cloud provider isn’t the only group what might want to peek at your data.
3) There is a lack of support. When you’re hosting on the cloud, you’re one of thousands, and maybe millions of users. What happens when there’s a problem, and the cloud crashes, as the Amazon cloud did in 2011, and again in 2017, or the Microsoft Azure crash in 2018. That’s not to say these same issues wouldn’t affect you wherever you’re hosting, it’s just that when your equipment is in a physically accessible location, and you can talk to actual admins, you can at the very least let your clients know what’s going on, and provide a time-frame for service restoration.
C. Colocate your servers
There are facilities that maintain redundant internet connections, climate controlled server rooms, generator backups, and maintain compliance for SAT70, HIPAA, etc. The only concern the you have is your equipment itself, leaving a lot of the more aggravating aspects to the hosting provider. I use Vastnet.net for a few of my servers, and have never had any issues. It's always recommended to do off site backups on occasion, and could even host servers in multiple facilities to, in effect, create your own cloud without having to trust a large conglomerate with your data. Colocating is an excellent way to reduce your costs while still maintaining control over your data, and protecting your equipment.