Growing frustrated with your in-house server room? It might be time to switch to colocation services.

With colocation, you can ensure maximum security, technical support and connectivity for your servers, all without the overhead costs of running your own server room.

While we don't offer colocation ourselves, it's a term you'll likely see across the web when searching for the right server for you project. So to save some confusion, here's a guide to help you understand what it actually means and what the benefits are of housing your server in a third-party data centre.

What is a data centre?

First, let’s go over the basics and discuss what a data centre is.

A data centre is a building that’s specifically designed for housing IT hardware such as servers. As such, they provide the optimal environment for this equipment, including a carefully controlled climate, cooling systems, ultra-reliable internet connectivity, backup generators and plenty of space for racks, cabinets and trays. The best data centres will have maximum redundancy systems in place to make sure that all key systems keep running in the event of a power failure.

Another key feature of data centres is on-site physical security. Due to the value of all of the hardware in the building, data centres have guards and physical security features like fences and CCTV surveillance to keep intruders out.

Larger companies, such as Google or Microsoft, will typically have their own private data centres. However for smaller companies, it can be more financially viable to either have a small in-house server room or to rent space in a colocation data centre.

What are colocation services?

Colocation is a service provided by commercial data centres whereby you can rent space in the data centre to house your IT hardware. Although you’ll have to pay to rent this space, usually in a multi-month or multi-year contract, you can save so much on overhead costs by getting rid of your old in-house server room.

Colocation is also a fantastic solution for rapidly growing businesses. If you’ve outgrown your old server room, renting space in a data centre will allow you to take advantage of a greater amount of space and technical support. Plus, if you continue to grow, you can easily increase the amount of space you’re renting to install new hardware.

Additionally, if you’re keen to reduce your environmental impact, colocation can be a more sustainable option than hosting your IT hardware in-house. This is because providing power and climate control at a larger scale in a data centre can be more efficient per server than providing power in a small server room. Plus, the cost can be spread much more too.

However, it’s important to remember that you’re still responsible for your own hardware while you’re renting space in a data centre. The data centre will provide the power, connectivity, security, cooling components and storage systems, but you’ll need to manage your own server. This means you’ll still need to front the cost of hardware. Plus, if there are any technical issues you need to deal with, sending your tech team to the data centre can be costly and time-consuming if it’s far away.

Colocation features

So what are the main features you can expect to find in a colocation centre? To recap, here’s what’s on offer with colocation services:

  • Reliable internet connectivity
  • Reliable power
  • Cooling systems to keep your hardware in pristine condition
  • Physical and cyber security
  • On-site technical support
  • Backup systems
  • Audits for reliability
  • Racks, towers, trays and cabinets available to rent

Of course, not all data centres will be exactly the same. For example, some may offer 100% renewable energy on their premises (with associated cost savings for customers due to energy efficiency), and others may offer maximum redundancy for all on-site systems for your peace of mind (although you may have to pay a premium for this).

Benefits of colocation

Still not convinced? Here are the main benefits of using colocation services for your servers:

1. Reduced capital expenditure

Maintaining and powering your own in-house server room can be a huge expense, especially because it’s inefficient to power a whole server room for a minimal amount of equipment. Getting rid of your server room and opting for colocation services instead can hugely reduce your capital expenditure, allowing you to increase your budget for other areas of your business. Plus, having a server room can increase the risk of fires and thefts on your premises, whereas data centres are designed to handle these issues.

2. On-site technical support

Depending on the data centre, you can access a certain amount of on-site technical support as part of your colocation package, such as troubleshooting, routine hardware management and other small maintenance tasks. Opting for more technical support can be extremely useful, especially if you’re based quite far away from the data centre or if issues occur at awkward times when you can’t immediately respond (e.g. the middle of the night or during the holidays). A significant amount of downtime can be catastrophic for your business, so it's comforting to know that tech teams are on hand to respond to emergencies as soon as they arise.

3. Physical and cyber security

If you want your data to be as safe as possible, you can’t go wrong with colocation. These data centres are designed with the ultimate security in mind, both physical and cyber. For physical security, there are robust security measures including tall fences, biometric authorisation, 24/7 security guards and CCTV surveillance, and for cyber security, there are tech teams dedicated to deterring hackers and preventing cyber attacks. These teams will patch vulnerable systems, encrypt sensitive data, implement multi-factor authentication and more to keep your hardware safe.

4. Control and customisation

Since you own your hardware, you can continue to enjoy full control over your server even when it’s hosted in a data centre. If you ever need to customise your server’s hardware, you’ll have full access to it whenever you need.

5. Scalability

Need more power from your server? As your needs grow, your hardware can easily grow with you thanks to colocation. Simply rent more space from the data centre so you can install new hardware to facilitate your growth. This would be much harder with your own in-house server room, as you would have to increase the size of the room and the amount of power supplied (which would be more expensive than renting space from a data centre).

6. Climate control

As a server’s temperature rises, its reliability decreases. And when it gets too hot, the server can suffer from poor performance, random reboots, system faults and crashes, which can lead to costly data loss and downtime. In a large room full of servers, which are all generating a lot of heat, it’s essential that there are adequate cooling systems to keep the temperature at an optimum level for server performance. Arranging and powering all of this cooling equipment yourself can be expensive and time-consuming, but with colocation, you can take advantage of the data centre’s fantastic cooling capacity, including cooling towers, water loop pumps and HVAC systems.

7. Backup systems

In the event of a power failure, data centres have data backup systems (such as backup power generators and battery backup systems) to keep everything running smoothly. This means you won’t need to worry about downtime, a loss of data, or damage to your servers if the cooling systems failed.

8. Consistent power supply and Internet connectivity

Finally, colocation centres are an ideal location for your IT hardware because of the extremely reliable power supply and internet connection, which can ensure that you don’t experience significant downtime, latency issues or poor performance. Data centres often use multiple internet providers for increased reliability and speed, and they also use redundant power systems that can withstand long power outages if necessary. Replicating these systems in your in-house server room would be both impractical and costly, so colocation is the best way to access the perfect environment for your hardware at a fair price.

Colocation vs cloud services

With the rising popularity of cloud computing, cloud data centres are becoming an attractive alternative to physical data centres for some customers. In traditional colocation services, you rent space from the physical data centre, which provides the power, security and cooling systems, but you’re in control of your own hardware. With a cloud data centre, the cloud provider leases both space and the hardware. This means you’re also renting the use of their servers and being charged based on your consumption of server resources (e.g. RAM, bandwidth and storage space).

Cloud services are appealing to customers who want consumption-based pricing, as this means they don’t have to pay for any resources they aren’t using. Another benefit is that cloud customers don’t have to pay for or maintain any hardware, which can be both expensive and time-consuming – especially if you don’t have a lot of technical knowledge.

However, having your own hardware is ideal for those who want full control over their servers. Traditional colocation services will allow you to customise your server to fit your exact needs and add or remove hardware whenever necessary.

Remote hands

Want the freedom of your own hardware but don’t have the time or technical expertise to manage it day-to-day? Many data centres offer a service called remote hands, whereby customers don’t have to maintain their server or fix any issues themselves. Instead, on-site technical teams will handle all of the typical maintenance tasks for your hardware, such as rebooting your server, moving or securing network cables, hardware and software installation, audits, power cycling, inventory management and emergency response.

Remote hands services can be included in your colocation package. These services are ideal for people who live quite far from their data centre, as the cost and inconvenience of sending IT teams to deal with server issues would be far greater than the cost of remote hands services.

For those who want help with more complex maintenance issues, smart hands services are a step up from remote hands. Smart hands teams will perform tasks such as complex cable configurations, setting up firewalls and equipment testing. Due to the extra expertise and attention required, smart hands services are usually billed by the hour rather than being included in your overall colocation package.

Managed services

Similarly, some colocation centres offer managed services for customers who want a completely hands-off experience. For an extra price, the data centre will handle all of the server maintenance and configuration. However, this means you won’t have as much control over your server, which can be an issue for those with more complex or frequently changing needs.

How to choose the right colocation services

Different data centres will offer different features and benefits, which can make it hard for you to pick the best colocation services for you.

To help you with your search, here are some of the main factors you should consider when looking at different data centres and colocation services:

  • Location: This can have a huge impact on the speed of your server. The closer your data centre, the better the performance of your server because data won’t have to travel as far following data requests.
  • Redundancy: Does your chosen data centre have fully redundant systems with backup generators? How long will their systems withstand a power outage? What is their uptime guarantee?
  • Security: What physical and cyber security measures are in place?
  • Pricing: What is the total cost of the colocation service? Will you be charged based on rack space or floor space by the square foot?
  • Extra features: What extra features are included in the price? Does the colocation centre offer remote hands or managed services?

Colocation isn't something we offer, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't know what it is. What we do offer though is powerful, green, UK-based data centres.

Rent space in our 100% renewable, ISO 27001-certified data centre to take advantage of green energy, reliable power, robust security and a fully climate-controlled environment. Get in touch today to learn more.