What is Co-Location?

Co-location is a partnership approach between an organization and a trusted service provider to collectively support the organization’s IT environment. Specifically, the organization provides the physical servers, which are then housed at the provider’s datacenter.

Why would an organization choose co-location?

Often, a growing organization has a local network that suddenly has a new demand requirement that prompts a transition into the approach. Some typical reasons an organization might use a co-location approach are:

Geographic Expansion: Co-location can allow an organization’s network to migrate into the cloud. The cloud lets two or more geographically distant locations work on a common network, allowing the offices to collaborate as if they were next door.

Physical Expansion: A growing organization may require more space for human resources, equipment or supplies. Network equipment can consume a lot of physical space. Therefore, Co-location makes room for a small expansion without having to acquire a large block of nearby offices.

Enhanced Connectivity Requirements:  Co-location is often a cost-effective way for the organization to upgrade their Internet speed and bandwidth. This approach is particularly beneficial for organizations that do a lot of business on the Internet.

Stronger Security Requirements: ETTE’s datacenter is ready to host a sensitive compartmentalized information facility (SCIF).  Many US government contracts require the contractor to store, receive, or manage classified or sensitive government information in a SCIF.  Constructing a SCIF from scratch is often a costly and time consuming process. But, relocating a server to a datacenter with pre-built SCIF is a quick and economic solution.

Transition to a Cloud-Based System: Some organizations understand the advantages of cloud computing. Although an organization may desire to transition to a cloud system, the idea of “throwing away” a number of perfectly serviceable servers is unpalatable. In these cases, co-location  allows the organization to move quickly to the cloud, while continuing to make use of the equipment they already own. As the equipment is expensed and becomes obsolete, the organization can transition to a full service model.

What are the advantages of this approach?

Co-location takes advantage of the greatest strengths of the partnership.  Since there is no set way to co-locate, the service provider can offer a flexible package to meet the organization’s situation and needs. If an organization has a talented system administrator, the organization can provide the servers and have their staffer maintain the network. Meanwhile, the trusted service provider provides better connectivity, higher system reliability (with extensive UPS capability), and better physical security of servers and data storage. Don’t have or cannot afford an IT pro? The trusted service provider can completely support the IT environment, typically as a price below the cost of a single administrator.

Are there drawbacks?

If not planned carefully, most of the benefits of co-location can be lost. If an organization is thinking of moving to a co-location solution, here are some key items to consider.

Make certain the responsibilities of each partner are clearly defined in the contract. Far and away the largest source of troubles with a co-location solution result from an unclear understanding of whether the organization or service provider is responsible for each element of an IT environment. Security, maintenance, data storage and crisis response are a number of pretty clear areas of responsibility.  However, you should suggest a customized list if it best suits your organization’s needs. For example, if your organization has a firewall, you may wish to retain control of the firewall, but leave the rest of the security solution to the service provider. Likewise, you may wish to leave systems monitoring and reporting within the organization, but leave the actual network maintenance to the service provider. The contract can also specify whether maintenance work needs to be directed by the organization or if the service provider can act on their own initiative. A responsible service provider such as ETTE will take an organization through each environmental element.  Together we will determine who should be responsible based on your organization’s unique needs.

Don’t pay for more than you need. Some service providers will try to sell an organization more bandwidth, network support, data storage or even security than they need “to accommodate growth”. However, there is really no reason to pay for growth before it occurs. Look for a provider who charges for services based on a measurable metric. For example, ETTE bases its pricing on the number of authorized system users. Then, be diligent in keeping the cost-basis metric as accurate as possible. For example, remove users from the system when you no longer need them. Make certain you understand what triggers every cost item in your contract, particularly supplemental costs, and make certain your organization monitors those closely. Many an organization experiences sticker shock from not carefully monitoring those add-on costs. Other ways an organization can overpay is to outsource services that the organization is fully capable of performing in-house, or oversecuring a system. An organization does not need a SCIF if they are not handling sensitive government information.

Be honest about your equipment. If your co-location plan entails supplying an unreliable ten-year old server to serve your client base of 200, when it had previously barely managed 50, you are asking for trouble. Be sure your servers are adequate for the job you expect them to perform. A good rule of thumb is to remember that most IT equipment operates on a 3-year lifecycle, if your organization is uncertain. If your servers are fewer than three years old, they are probably fine for co-location. At 3-5 years, the appropriateness becomes questionable. If upon reflection you decide your equipment is inadequate or obsolete, it may be time to transition to a private or public cloud infrastructure. Your trusted service provider can help.

ETTE can help

ETTE can help your organization enjoy the best benefits of co-location without selling you more than you need. As each client is unique, so is each contract. ETTE will sit with you to get a detailed understanding of your organizational IT needs. We will make an honest inventory and assessment of the IT equipment you propose to supply for co-location. ETTE will explain to your organization, in human terms, exactly why we recommend or do not recommend a particular service for your organization. We price our service per seat, so as your user base expands or ebbs, so will your costs. ETTE can send proactive warnings if your organization is incurring added costs for supplemental services. We hope to become your trusted servicer. Contact us to find out more. Click here for more information about our world-class datacenter.