Data centres are at the centre of the modern technology industry, shown by how the biggest companies are investing massively into building their own. 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.
"Data centres are at the centre of the modern technology industry"
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.
Below we explore these different factors of colocation, and give you our insight into important information about colocation.
Colocation is the act of placing your servers and other IT equipment into a third-party data centre, alongside others’ equipment (thus: co-location). This is much cheaper (and less impossible) than building your own data centre, but there is a host of other benefits as well.
The basics of colocation:
Create room to grow – Your in-house servers take up space that could be used by desks. Moving your equipment into a colocation centre will free this up, and let you grow your numbers without having to look at a bigger office.
Your IT infrastructure can grow as well – If you need to expand your IT equipment beyond the space you have in your office this could cause a severe problem, and stifle the progress of your company. Once you move to rack space in a colocation data centre, then you’ll never have to worry about finding the room to expand your equipment again.
Connectivity Options – Running your essential computer services off of your office wifi can lead to issues when that connection is slow, or there are service issues. Data centres operate in a ‘carrier-neutral’ way, which is what allows some of them to have an SLA of 99.999% network uptime. More details about how data centres can help with your connectivity can be found in our piece about net neutrality.
Peace of mind – Data centres deploy sophisticated redundancies for power, cooling, and internet connectivity. They’ll keep your system online at all times, and you don’t need to worry about the potential fall out of a system outage.
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 – Data centres are incredibly efficient with their energy use, meaning that their operating costs per server is a lot lower than in-house setups. If you colocate with a data centre, they pass this saving on to you, and the fees you pay them will be considerably lower than your running costs.
Utilise the latest computing technology – Recently there has been a massive uptake in the use of HPC (high-performance computing), which has allowed companies to use their computers in ways never achieved before. However, HPC set-ups require extensive infrastructure to run, and so for most companies, the only way to use them is by utilising a data centre.
Less to think about – With a data centre responsible for the upkeep of all of the cooling, power, and connectivity equipment you no longer need to worry about them. Additionally, they’ll keep an eye on your servers and make you aware of any problems you might have, so you no longer need to spend so much time monitoring them.
With the rise of big data analytics, machine learning and AI, and the ever-growing demands to meet tighter deadlines and reduce production costs, there has been an increasing demand for businesses to use high-performance computing (HPC) within data centres.
HPC allows you to handle complex workloads, such as medical diagnostics or large computational fluid dynamics models, to execute many more instructions than is possible on traditional server infrastructure.
Unless you have the appropriate facilities in house, it is recommended you store your HPC in an HPC-ready data centre where storage space is not an issue and where the environment is perfectly adapted to the power and cooling needs of high performance computers.
Traditional medium density CPU storage will require a power deployment 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.
Across the UK, our data centres have been uniquely built for high density deployments, and our infrastructure reflects this.
Power – All our racks are equipped with power supplies capable of hosting anything up to ultra-high density (around 40kW) without any additional power installation requirement.
Cooling – Our rear-door cooling technology uses a cooling loop on the back of the rack, which is connected to the chilled water system that feeds the main data floor CRAC (Computer Room Air Conditioning) units to comfortably cope with the cooling requirements of a HPC rack and can be installed upon request onto any of our racks.
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We’ve already mentioned the efficiency that colocation allows in the context of cost, but it also makes colocation a very green IT solution.
"...makes colocation a very green IT solution."
Data centres use a massive amount 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, even though data centres do use a lot of energy, they are still the future of green technology.
But it is important to note that some data centres are a lot greener than others, and there are a lot of decisions data centres can make to increase or decrease how eco-friendly they are.
Placing your servers into colocation data centres means you are now relying on their security protocols and not your own. While this takes a lot of pressure off of you and your business, you still need to fully understand what security is in place around your equipment.
Physical Security – 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.
The required security measures can be difficult and expensive to implement in your own office, but data centres will have physical security measures built-in.
Once you know the level of service you need from your colocation data centre, you need to set a budget (you can use our guide to The Cost of Colocation) and start looking at data centres which can operate to your budget.
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. So the more space you need, the more it will cost you.
"U is short for ‘rack unit’, and each U will be tall enough to hold a standard rack-mounted server."
The level of SLA – Data centres which provide comprehensive SLAs regarding system up-time will be more expensive as they’re offering more of a service, so you’ll need to decide how much downtime you can afford your system having. Additionally getting things like 24-hour access and remote hands will require you going to a more expensive data centre.
Power requirements – Servers and other computer equipment use a lot of electricity, so data centres will charge based on energy consumption due to the high costs. 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 – Data centres located in major cities or capital cities are usually between 30-40% more expensive than those found in non-metro areas. You would expect that data centres get cheaper the further away they are from city centres, so you’ll need to consider what locations are practical for your business, and where can you afford to go.
If you are considering colocation you’ll need to start comparing data centres to see which offers the best colocation.
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
Power failures can cause irreparable damage to your IT equipment and your reputation if your network experiences significant downtime. Understanding UPSs is a crucial part of avoiding these issues.
If you want to run your own, in-house UPS, there are a number of significant costs associated with this, all of which are covered within the costs of colocation data centre facilities.
4D Data Centres has been operating for over 12 years, and through our rigorous testing and maintenance regimes, we’re very proud to say that we’ve never had a power failure. We've been able to achieve this through expert deployment of UPSs, and we've distilled our experience and knowledge down into this guide.
"Colocation allows your company to utilise a data centre no matter what size you’re currently at."
Operating your computer system out of a colocation data centre brings a range of business benefits, reduces your running costs, and is also the green technology option. It’s important to make sure you partner up with a data centre which can meet your needs and your budget. But once you’ve found the right data centre, colocation will be a foundational part of the computer system which will take your company into the future.
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.