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Colocation data centers may be on the rise, but they don’t come without challenges. More and more business clients are looking into hybrid cloud services in order to release their own latest services or applications, and disaster recovery is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Business owners are getting reminded once again (thanks to the Texas floods) that disasters—natural or manmade—can happen to anyone. That includes the data center they depend upon for security and uptime. Some of the biggest players, such as Amazon, are building their own data centers, but that’s an incredibly costly investment that just doesn’t make sense for the vast majority of businesses. Colocation is the natural choice, which is when businesses rely on external IT services and resources. However, just because it’s a natural choice doesn’t make it an easy one. There are well over 1,000 colocation data centers in North America and counting. It’s a big decision that requires extensive research.

For starters, potential clients need to know if a colocation data center is a cloud impediment or cloud-enabling. Colocation is step one in creating a hybrid cloud environment, but the actual colocation partner you choose can either hold you back or bolster your architecture and cloud options, says Gartner Research. There are different kinds of colocation features, and it’s up to you to know what’s best for your business—however, a reputable colocation data center will work with you to help you figure it out. Gartner suggests starting with documentation. Map out your existing software as a service (SaasS), enterprise cloud strategies, infrastructure as a service and platform as a service. Write down your cloud requirements and compare them to what each potential colocation provider is capable of offering.

The Classic Pro/Con List

Once you have your goals in place, Gartner recommends comparing them line item by line item until you find the colocation provider that matches you perfectly. Otherwise, you risk facing “stranded” applications and will ultimately waste a lot of time and money. The time (and perhaps money) you invest right now in mapping out what you need and what’s available will more than pay for itself. There are various types of colocation contracts available, all with various “lock-in times”, but between three and five years is the norm. If you get locked into a subpar contract, or simply one that doesn’t work for you, that can lead to extensive and expensive consequences.

However, if you engage in a contract with the “right” colocation provider, it gives your business an advantage. There’s a lot more to colocation than getting the best servers—it’s also about scalability. Maybe you want to capture data that’s unstructured, analyze it and use it to better engage with your customers. This will require a mix of cloud computing and on-premise, storage solutions and networking. In the IT world, experts already know the benefits and importance of having a hybrid cloud. However, IDC Corporation research shows that many IT professionals (let alone non-IT folks!) skim over WAN connectivity issues and host-diverse networking interoperability that might pop up with hybrid IT strategy angles. Everyone needs a safe, agile and scalable network in order to make sure paramount systems work together, says IDC’s Rick Villars. The VP of data center and cloud at IDC wrote about this struggle in his “Business Challenges for Enterprises with Hybrid IT Environments” report.

As IT pros, these experts need to manage external and internal resources alike, all while playing nicely with various IT resources. Villars says, “Optimizing service and application delivery will depend upon having the right networking and WAN foundations.” The trick? Identifying the best colocation partner, that has premium cloud architecture, to give clients all the upsides of such an approach without giving up network stability or data safety. However, this is easier said than done, especially for clients who are rushed or don’t think it’s important to compare wants/availability with colocation service providers.

Tricks to Get Started

One of the easiest ways to start comparing your demands with what’s available is the “inside out” approach. Going with a local colocation provider may give you better connectivity, better service and peace of mind. In some cases, you may even be able to tour the data center to see firsthand what kind of technology there is as well as security. However, only go hyper local if you live/do business in a region that’s secure to begin with—this includes being relatively free of natural disasters and in a low-crime zone. While colocation data centers are built with incredibly safety measures, they’re not indestructible.

One of the best regions in the US is Utah, where natural disasters are slim and crime is low. Plus, the added bonus of being able to drop in and see your partner can help avoid one of the pitfalls of business ownership: Having to rely on a company thousands of miles away to ensure your company can perform well.



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