Colocation hosting is an option in which clients normally rent rack space from a provider to house their own servers. However, colocation also includes renting a dedicated server and many providers additionally offer managed server services.
A colocation facility provides everything needed for server operation allowing clients to save on startup and overhead costs. Basically, clients simply rent as much rack space as they need for their servers and everything else is handled by the provider.
With most colocation accounts, clients use their own hardware and software.
A provider will generally use office or warehouse space to house client servers. The facilities are normally first rate with high security and redundant power and other backup systems.
The site will have 24/7 security monitoring that can include armed guards, closed circuit TV (CCTV), infrared monitors, exterior fencing, automated access control and even very high tech equipment such as biometric security devices. Normally only staff and clients will have free access to the building with guests requiring security clearance and escort.
Very high security colocation sites may have multiple layers of security access starting with the outer gate — again at the building entrance — with the server area having the highest level of security. Access to individual servers is protected by passwords and in some cases there may be protected physical access to each server.
Most providers use state of the art fire detection and suppression equipment. The walls and doors of the facilities may be highly-rated for fire protection to prevent conflagrations from spreading too quickly. Often the automatic fire suppression equipment uses special chemicals that are selected so as not to damage computer hardware.
The location may also provide multiple water sources for cooling equipment including the local municipal water source along with backup artisan wells.
In order to ensure that the servers and other equipment are running 24/7 even during power outages and natural disaster, the colocation site must have redundant power sources. Generally, in addition to connection to the local grid, each site will have at least two backup sources.
The traditional backup is an onsite generator that uses a fuel source like diesel, and in most cases significant amounts of backup fuel will be stored onsite. The tertiary power source is usually some type of storage device or battery.
At the best facilities, there may even be battery backup supplies for all the systems in the facility and for each server. The batteries used at these sites for individual servers are UPS or uninterruptible power supply batteries that are specially designed to maintain a consistent flow of electricity to computer devices.
Dedicated servers and managed servers
Although most people choose colocation hosting to have the capability of physically accessing and managing their own equipment, other options are also available. A dedicated server is hardware that is provided by the colocation company.
Clients are able to install, and change at any time, whatever operating systems or software applications they desire on the dedicated server. With the dedicated server account, the facility provides the hardware, but the client is responsible for managing the server. This option still allows the client to save money by using the entire infrastructure offered by the provider.
Managed server services involve the colocation staff operating the hardware and software systems for the client. Each site has technical staff present on a 24/7 basis to manage all the technical systems at the facility. The staff also handles the managed server accounts for the company, so that there is always someone present who can deal with hardware or software problems.
Advantages of colocation
The main advantage of colocation is that it allows clients to use top of the line technology and backup systems without having to invest their own money for in-house setups of the same caliber.
The colocation option also allows clients to physically access and manage their hardware.