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Colocation: 55+ living for your IT equipment

I recently sat on a planning call with an extremely smart and agreeable client. We had discussed a modest “data center” worth of equipment to host the environment he’s considering putting into production. I asked the simple enough question of “where are you going to deploy this gear?” I have to admit not being very surprised when he responded: “Well, I’ve cleaned out a corner of my office.” Having spent some early days of my IT career working in a server closet, I knew that if the hum of the equipment fans didn’t get to him quickly, the heat output would for sure. This is not an uncommon conversation. Clearly the capital expense of building out a “data center” onsite was not an appealing topic. So, if building isn’t an option, why not rent?

In a similar vein, not too far back I watched several “senior” members of my family move into 55+ communities after years of resisting. Basically, they did a “capacity planner” and realized the big house was no longer needed. They figured somebody else could worry about the landscaping, snow plowing and leaky roofs. The same driving forces should have many IT pros considering a move into a colocation facility.

The opportunities to move into a hosted data center (colo facility) are plentiful today. You simply don’t have as much gear any longer (assuming you’re mostly virtualized). Your desire to “do it all” yourself has waned (let someone else worry about keeping the lights on and network connected). The added bonus of providing redundant network paths, onsite security and almost infinite expansion are driving many “rental” conversations today. Colos are purpose-built facilities which are ideal for core data center gear such as servers, storage (SANs), routers and core switches, to name a few.  Almost all of them have dual power feeds, backup battery systems and generators. HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) units keep appropriate environmental conditions for the operation of this critical equipment.

Many businesses don’t fully realize just how much power consumption is required to operate a data center. The energy bills achieved for just the cooling component alone can leave many IT managers, well, frosted. Even still, the need to see the healthy status green blinking lights is like a digital comfort blanket. Speaking with many IT execs, we hear over and over “This was the best move we could have made.” From our own experience, we’ve seen our internal IT team shift focus to strategic initiatives and end user support.

While it is certainly not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, there is something for most organizations when it comes to colo. Smaller organizations with one rack of equipment have seen tremendous advantages as have clients approaching the “enterprise” size with dozens of cabinets of gear. Redundancy, security, cost control, predictable budgets and 7x24x365 support are all equally attractive reasons to move into a “colo.” Call it a “colominium” if you will. Colo could be the right step toward a more efficient and effective IT existence.


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