The difference between colocation and a data centre

When your IT needs outgrow the capacity of your in-house server room – whether in terms of space, power, or cooling requirements – you might start searching for alternative options. If you’re not familiar with the lingo, the results of that search might throw up more questions than answers. Various adverts will tell you: You need hosting! Colocation! A data centre!

In order to make the right decision for your business and the digital transformation journey you are on, you need to first understand your choices. So, let’s run through the various terminology and the key differences between them.

What is a data centre?

data centre is a purpose-built building designed to provide an ideal environment for your IT hardware. You could describe it as a spa hotel for your servers:

  • The temperature is carefully controlled for optimal server performance.
  • Sufficient power is supplied and there are backup systems in case of a power cut.
  • Internet connectivity usually comes via multiple providers for utmost reliability and speed.
  • Plinky plonky whale song type music plays all day long. (Ok, so this last point is a bit of a stretch!)

It’s a very relaxing experience for the server – and for you, since you no longer have to worry about any of those things. All good data centres will ensure maximum redundancy in these core systems so that at no time will a failure in the power, cooling or connectivity systems cause an unexpected outage for your IT.

Data centres could be owned and managed by your company – if you’re, say, Microsoft, Amazon or Google. Or they could be commercial enterprises that rent out storage racks for a fee – otherwise known as multi-tenant data centres.

What is colocation?

Colocation (sometimes called colo) is the service of hosting your IT hardware in a data centre, taking advantage of the infrastructure provided by commercial data centres.

Colocation becomes a good option as your infrastructure expands. Paying for the requisite power and cooling for a small server room can get expensive, whereas data centres benefit from economies of scale that make colocation the more affordable option. Colocation also removes the risk of on-premises server rooms, such as the risk of fire, flood or theft, since data centres feature built-in safeguards and are staffed 24/7 to eliminate these risks.

A data centre is a place. Colocation is a service.

This is the easiest way to remember it. Whereas your on-premises server room is likely to be limited by space, cost, or power and cooling capabilities, commercial data centres enable you to scale-up your IT infrastructure as your business grows. You can also take advantage of the data centre’s economies of scale and their ability to be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, to align with your own sustainability goals.

Colocation is just one service that a commercial data centre can provide. Many will also offer additional services such as Remote Hands (for small maintenance jobs and troubleshooting), cyber security, and cloud infrastructure, making them much more than just a building – they can become a one-stop managed infrastructure provider. Outsourcing these responsibilities gives you more time to focus on your business, with the peace of mind that your IT is in safe hands.

What does it mean to host in a data centre?

With both colocation and cloud services, your IT is hosted within a data centre. The key difference is that with colocation you still own and have total control over your servers, and with cloud your provider is responsible for all of the hardware which you effectively lease from them. Either way your IT system is protected from downtime by the excellent infrastructure of a data centre.

Is colocation right for you?

So, quick recap.

  • A data centre is a purpose-built facility designed to efficiently store, power, cool and connect your IT infrastructure.
  • Colocation is one of many services data centres provide, and is the act of hosting your IT hardware (like servers) outside of your premises and in a data centre.

Now that you know the difference between colocation, data centres and hosting, you can start exploring how you could benefit from moving your current IT infrastructure to a data centre. We’re always happy to chat about your options – so if you’d like to talk to someone please do get in touch.

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