There was a time when you needed the savvy to run your own web server to even get a site up and running. Now that Linux and Windows hosting has become so common and standardized, there are lots of places to get hosted. Even larger companies that insisted on maintaining control by buying their own servers and rack mounting them in their own temperature controlled data centers are taking a second look at colocation and clouds. Why? It’s mostly about cost but also about resources.
One of the big resource bottlenecks today is bandwidth. Certainly, carriers have kept up with offerings at GigE, 10 GigE, OC-768, wavelengths and dark fiber. What they haven’t done is provide universal access. While competitive fiber optic networks are expanding their service footprints every day, the majority of business locations still aren’t lit and aren’t likely to be in the near future. Ethernet over Copper bridges the gap for some. Speeds are up to 200 Mbps now. EoC is distance limited, however, so that your best chance for service is in a downtown business district.
Move to a colocation facility or cloud service, however, and your bandwidth issues may be over. They may not be if you need a high bandwidth pipe between your facility and the cloud. But if most of your bandwidth demand is coming from Internet users rather than in-house users, colos and clouds look pretty attractive. Cloud providers locate with the same facility at major carriers to ensure themselves of almost unlimited bandwidth. You can do the same thing by packing up your high bandwidth demand servers and shipping them to a colo facility. The best deals are where multiple carriers have established points of presence and are willing to bid for your business.
Another attraction of colocation is jettisoning the capital investment and operating costs associated with running your own data center. The colo has high security, backup power, environmental control and a tech support staff available 24/7. You need to provide the same things. Economy of scale favors the colocation company with its much larger facility and lots of customers to amortize the cost.
Smaller companies may find that they can’t afford an around the clock tech staff nor the investment required to build or expand an in-house data center. A move to a nearby colo center can get them the facilities they need for a monthly fee. But why stop there? Perhaps it makes even more economic sense to forget about having your own hardware at all. Why not pay as you go on everything?
This is the appeal of everything-as-a-service. Hedge your bets by renting rather than buying. You can do that at many colocation centers now. They’ll put a server in the rack for you and keep it maintained. It’s just like having your own hardware except that when you don’t need it anymore, you just walk away. Need a bigger server? Don’t buy one. Simply upgrade your colo service.
The cloud does the colo one better. The cloud philosophy is “why commit to any particular hardware at all?” Why, indeed? In the cloud all services are virtualized. You don’t need to know or care what they’ve mounted in the racks. What you are concerned about is how many instances of virtualized servers you need at the moment. If you find that your demands fluctuate, you can increase or decrease the number of servers or amount of storage almost instantly. The well of resources to tap is nearly unlimited.
The problem now is how to sort out the options. Shared hosting is nearly a commodity these days. Get competitive quotes for colocation and cloud hosting services for your IT operations and then compare with what it costs you to provide the same value in-house.