Both colocation and cloud services have the similarity of being purchased from outside vendors. To the end user, the difference may be trivial. But to someone close to the situation there is a world of difference between colocation and the cloud. Or, is there?
The advantage of colocation facilities is that they provide a physical environment optimized for information technology needs. The colo center is a robust building with rack space all set up with power and cooling. It’s the same support system you would install yourself to support your servers and other data center equipment. You’ll need backup power, of course, fire suppression and physical security. You can’t afford to turn your back on expensive, demanding and possibly temperamental systems, so you need technical staff on duty or nearby. Then there’s the matter of bandwidth connections.
One factor driving many companies to colocation facilities is the need for far greater levels of bandwidth than are available at their current location. This is especially true in smaller towns and rural areas. You need fiber optic services and the best you get is bonded T1. But move to a colo and you’ll be surrounded by carriers who have points of presence in-house and within an easy drop of your equipment cage. You can get all the bandwidth you need, virtually on demand, and at lower prices than you’ll find locally. Why move the whole company when you can simply move a few racks of gear and meet your requirements?
This is the territory that is also now being served by the cloud. The “cloud” is a nebulous (pun intended) term for outsourced information technology services owned and operated by a third party. With a colo center you buy a server and ship it to the colocation operator. In some cases, you rent a server and perhaps the tech support to manage it. But you are responsible for the applications software and operation of the system. When you buy from the cloud, you don’t worry about hardware or software. You are simply purchasing a service. The mechanics behind how that service operates belongs to the cloud service provider.
What can you get from the cloud? Perhaps a specific service. Perhaps everything you need to run your business. This is a new field exhibiting the rapid growth that typifies introduction of a disruptive technology. Buy supercomputing in the cloud when you can’t justify or afford full-time use of a supercomputer on-premises. Get all your office applications through the cloud and say goodbye to software patches and upgrades, not to mention racks of servers in the back room. Perhaps all you need is cloud networking to create a worldwide converged voice and data network for your international business.
What’s best for your business? The answer will very specific to your needs. Perhaps all three approaches will work, but one will have a superior cost/performance characteristic for what you are doing right now. Want some help getting the numbers together? Get quotes for colocation and cloud networking services quickly and easily. Then work through the options and pick what’s optimum for your business.
Note: Photo of clouds and building courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.