Why you need to know about colocation?

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Data centres are at the centre of the modern technology industry. Failing to take advantage of the efficiency and new technologies that data centres offer will lead to your business being left behind when it comes to your IT services.

Colocation provides the opportunity for smaller companies to use a third-party data centre, but there are many factors to weigh up to decide whether it’s a good fit for your company or not.

What is colocation?

Colocation is the act of moving your servers and other IT equipment into a third-party data centre. This is much cheaper (and significantly less challenging) than building your own data centre, but there is a host of other benefits as well.

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The basics of colocation:

  • Every business has servers to run their computer services, and these need a connection to the internet.
  • Keeping the servers in a dedicated server room in your office has several issues:
    • Costly energy to run and cool your servers
    • Your servers need to be monitored 24 hours a day by a technical engineer
    • Your server room can be difficult to keep secure
  • Moving your servers into a data centre solves these issues, as well as upgrading your resiliency and security.
  • Data centres contain many ‘racks’ of servers, and clients rent as many racks as their equipment requires.
  • Some data centres have eco-friendly cooling systems which use evaporation to reduce energy use.
Read our beginner’s guide to server colocation

The key benefits of Colocation


Create room to grow

Your in-house servers take up a lot of expensive office space (especially in London). Moving your IT equipment into a colocation data centre will not only give you more office space (and therefore help you save costs), but if you DO have to move, you don't have to worry about moving your servers again.


Power supply redundancies

Data centres use UPSs (Uninterruptable Power Supply) and generators to protect equipment from power failure, which guarantees your IT systems keep running and prevents any damage a power failure could cause. To learn more, you can read our Beginner’s Guide to UPSs.


Your IT infrastructure can grow

If you need to expand your IT equipment beyond the space you have in your office this could stifle your ability operationally grow the business. Once you move to rack space in a colocation data centre, you’ll never have to worry about finding more rackspace.


Connectivity options

In a world of hybrid-working, running essential computer systems off your standard office broadband is a recipe for disaster for your remote workers. The internet connectivity in a data centre will be a significant upgrade as they operate ultra-fast, carrier-neutral and highly resilient fibre networks.


Peace of mind

Tier 3 data centres deploy sophisticated 'concurrently maintainable' (i.e. highly resilient) power, cooling, and internet connectivity systems. You don’t need to worry about an outage if one component (i.e. an air-con unit) fails, as there are multiple redundant systems in place to pick up the slack.


Efficient Cooling Systems

Lots of servers generate a lot of heat, and cooling them can be very expensive. Data centres run a lot more efficiently than traditional air conditioning units, which keeps costs down. To learn more, you can read our Beginner’s Guide to Server Room Air Conditioning.


Lower costs

There is a number of ways that colocation services with a data centre will save you money. Their efficiency will reduce your energy-related costs, and they’ll give you more flexibility around your internet speeds and billing, as well as protecting you from downtime.


Enabling AI and VFX

The use of HPC (high-performance computing) for things like AI and VFX has grown significantly recently. However, HPC set-ups require extensive infrastructure to run, so for most companies, the only way to use them is by utilising a specialist HPC data centre like our Gatwick site.


24-hour monitoring & remote hands

With round-the-clock monitoring and a remote hands service, Colocation in a data centre means someone will be able to quickly fix an issue no matter what time of day or night it happens. This reduces downtime and saves your engineers a lot of time and effort.

Utilising a data centre for high-performance computing (HPC)

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With the rise of big data analytics, machine learning and AI there has been an increasing demand for businesses to adopt high-performance computing (HPC). HPC is the advanced computing technology that supports advanced digital technologies.

Since HPC has intense power and cooling requirements, it might be that the simplest way for your business to deploy it is in an HPC-ready colocation data centre where storage space is not an issue and where the environment is perfectly adapted the needs of HPC.

Traditional medium density CPU storage will require a power deployment of around 3 to 7 kW per rack.

HPC clusters of CPU and GPU cores demand 20 to 40 kW per rack, increasing the heat load drastically.

How green is colocation technology?

We’ve already mentioned the energy efficiency that colocation allows in the context of cost, but it also makes colocation a very green IT solution.

Data centres use a lot of electricity, but this doesn’t mean that they are bad for the environment. The energy used by a data centre is considerably less than what would be used to run the same amount of servers using in-house systems in individual offices, so colocation is an opportunity to increase your sustainability. Even though data centres use a lot of energy, they are still the future of green technology.

Read about 4D's green credentials
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How secure are colocation data centres?

How secure is colocation

Placing your servers into a colocation data centre means you are now relying on their security protocols and not your own. While this takes a lot of pressure off you and your business, you still need to fully understand what security is in place around your equipment.
Making sure that no one gains physical access to your servers is vital to protect the data stored on them. If you are recording people’s details, then GDPR makes it your responsibility to ensure this protection is in place, and their information isn’t misused (or misplaced).
The required security measures for certain data can be difficult and expensive to implement in your own office, but data centres will have physical security measures built-in.

At 4D we provide:

  • 24-hour monitoring so your servers are never unattended
  • Locked rack doors, locked with either combination, key, or biometric locks
  • Biometrics to verify identity at the front desk
  • Access list system so only people you’ve approved can access your rack
  • Additional caged-area option preventing people from even coming close to your rack
  • CPU shredding service, since comprehensively wiping hard drives can be difficult, we can destroy your old drives for you for complete protection.
Some data centres also offer cyber security services

How resilient are colocation data centres?

One of the biggest advantages of colocation is that it significantly reduces your downtime thanks to excellent levels of resiliency.

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Connectivity – Data centres provide their internet services in a carrier-neutral way, meaning that they’re connected to several different internet providers. When a network goes down, the data centre will always have others to rely on. Additional, the physical network cables leaving the data centre will do so in a geographically diverse way to eliminate the risk of something like construction work from severing their internet.

Power Failure – Data centres are equipped with Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) and generators so that their servers stay powered even if there is a main failure. UPSs are effectively giant batteries that keep everything powered until the generators kick in.

See how 4D has never had a power failure

The cost of colocation

Using colocation services with a data centre is an opportunity to save money for your business and you can use our guide to The Cost of Colocation to see the different factors that affect the cost of colocation.

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The pricing of colocation depends on a few factors, and these are:

The amount of space – The racks in data centres are typically measured by their height, and the unit used is ‘U’. Data centres will usually offer racks in three sizes: quarter racks, which are 11U in height; half racks, which are 22U in height; and full racks, which can range from 42 to 48U in height. Use our calculator to see what size rack you need.

The level of SLA – Data centres which provide comprehensive SLAs regarding system up-time will be more expensive, so you’ll need to decide how much downtime you can afford. Additionally, things like 24-hour access and remote hands will require you going to a more expensive data centre.

Power requirements – Data centres will charge based on energy consumption due to the high costs of power. Typically, a full rack will take anything up to 24 amps of power, and this is considered normal power density. If your power requirements are higher than this, it is considered higher power density, and the extra energy (to run and to cool these servers) will lead to additional costs.

Location Location is important, but data centres located in major cities or capital cities are usually between 30-40% more expensive than those found in non-metro areas. But there are also other advantages to using a data centre outside of a city.

Interested in a quote for colocation?

How to choose a data centre

If you are considering colocation you’ll need to start comparing data centres to see which offers the best colocation, and we have a handy infographic to help you compare.

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You can use our data centre checklist for the 22 essentials your colo facility should have, to check through and make sure the data centre you’re looking at has everything it should.

You also need to decide which tier of data centre would be best. Data centres tiers range from tier 1 (least resilient) to tier 4 (most resilient) and the most common in the UK is tier 3, which strikes a strong balance between resilience and cost. Watch our explanation of data centre tiers.

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How colocation compares to cloud

When it comes to digital transformation, specifically upgrading your on-premises servers to a managed infrastructure service, colocation vs cloud are the main options.

The big difference between colocation and cloud, with both of them being hosted in a data centre, is that you keep ownership of your servers in colocation, but with cloud your provider is responsible for all of the hardware. While one isn’t inherently better than the other, one might be a better fit for your business for one of the following reasons:

  • Security – Cloud requires giving your data to a third party, so if security is top priority, keep your own servers with colocation.
  • Scaling – Cloud can be scaled rapidly up and down. Colocation isn’t complicated to scale up, you just need to put in more servers, but isn’t quite as flexible.
  • Responsibility – Your cloud provider is responsible for all hardware maintenance. This has pros and cons since your IT team has less to do, but also has less control over fixing issues and scheduling downtime.

Cloud repatriation

Due to cloud’s ability to rapidly scale, and no need for capital investment, it’s where a lot of businesses start with their IT. However, it can grow unsuitable over time for several reasons including:

  • Your system has grown too big to be cost-effective
  • Security has become more important
  • You have specialist requirements you need to build yourself

When this happens, the best option is to repatriate systems off the cloud. Colocation is incredibly valuable here since you don’t need to start housing your IT yourself, and you still retain an excellent level of resiliency.

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Modern digital technology is incredibly advanced and is only growing more so over time. Thankfully, you don’t actually have to choose between colocation and cloud, you can add additional platforms to your colocation to achieve everything you need. Hybrid-IT is a work-load first way of running your IT where different applications are hosted on different platforms and you never need to compromise.

Hybrid-IT is an IT system where different platforms (e.g. colocation, private cloud, public cloud, etc.) are combined into one integrated system.

Colocation provides excellent resiliency and reliability, all with the security of storing data on your own personal hardware. If you have highly sensitive or proprietary data then colocation is an essential part of your IT. But combining it with the flexibility and expandability of cloud means your hybrid IT system can be the best of both worlds.

Colocation as part of your digital transformation

Colocation allows your company to utilise a data centre no matter what size your business

There are a lot of different ways to host your IT system, and there isn’t one correct answer, but colocation could help upgrade your IT’s reliability and security while reducing costs. Taking advantage of a data centre’s infrastructure while retaining your own hardware has a wide variety of benefits, so you just need to see if you have the capacity and the need in your digital transformation strategy for this and then incorporate colocation into the plan if you do.

If your business is at the right stage in your development to look into colocation, then make sure you follow the advice in our ‘How to choose a data centre’ section. When you start comparing, you can find 4D’s colocation offerings here. We have Surrey and Sussex data centres, with facilities also available in Kent and London. If we’re a good match for you, then please get in touch with one of our experts for advice and a bespoke quote.

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