What is colocation?

Colocation is a hosting option for small businesses who want the features of a large IT department without the costs. Many large corporations have the Internet infrastructure to host their own web servers and have a team of IT professionals to manage and design the site, individuals and small companies do not. There is a wide range of options available from simple hosting to running your own Web servers off of a dedicated Internet connection. One such option is colocation. In the first part of this series, we will examine why one would chose colocation over the other hosting options.

Colocation allows you to place your server machine in someone else's rack and share their bandwidth as your own. It generally costs more than standard Web hosting, but less than the comparable amount of bandwidth for your place of business. Once you have a machine set up, you physically take it to the location of the colocation provider and install it in their rack or you rent a server machine from the colocation provider. Your colocation company then provides an IP, bandwidth, and power to your server. Once it is up and running, you access it much like you would access a Web site on a hosting provider the difference being that you own the hardware.

Advantages of colocation

  • The biggest advantage of colocation is the cost for bandwidth. For example, a low cost limited bandwidth business grade DSL line generally costs around $150 to $200, but for the same price or less a single server can be placed in a colocation facility that provides higher bandwidth speeds and better redundancy for the network connections. These savings can be even greater if the only dedicated network access is a more expensive full or fractional T1 lines.
  • Colocation facilities have better outage protection. During a long ice-storm last year, my office was without power for three days. While we have a backup generator, it wasn't powerful enough to keep the server running that entire time, so our Web Sites were down during that outage. Through a colocation provider, we are paying for power generators and backup power to protect against that type of situation.
  • We own the server machinery. If we decide that the machine is too slow or does not have enough memory, we can simply upgrade the server. We do not have to wait for our provider to get around to upgrading it.
  • We own the server software. We do not have to rely on our hosting provider to install the software or tools we want to use. We simply do it ourselves. If we decide to use ASP or ColdFusion, we just purchase and install the software.
  • If we move, we can leave the server up and running the entire time. When we host our own domains we have to either pay for two lines to move the domains to the new location or deal with outages while the servers are moved to the new location.
  • Colocation providers provide additional security for your machines. Your server is stored and maintained in a secured environment.
  • Most colocation servers offer a service where they will manage and maintain your server for you for an extra cost. This is especially useful if you do not have IT team members or your office is located far from the provider.
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