Co-location (Colo for short) is a concept that still confuses many people, despite being a popular solution for many businesses. Unlike managed hosting and cloud services, if you choose to use a co-location facility, you will still own the physical servers, and in some cases be in charge of maintaining them, however, many co-location providers will also offer smart hands services to assist with some basic configuration tasks. In our latest blog, we’ll delve into what co-location is, why businesses choose to use them, and what is involved in building one.

What is Co-location?

A co-location (colo) is a data centre facility where an individual or a business can rent space, internet connectivity and power for servers and hardware. Usually, a co-location facility will provide the physical space itself, an appropriate cooling system, bandwidth and physical security for the location. This means that customers only have to concern themselves with supplying the actual servers and storage.

Co-location data centres are a versatile choice because space can often be leased by the rack, cage, cabinet, or an entire room. This allows customers to easily scale up or scale down the amount of space they require, based on their changing needs. With the rise in the number of companies now using co-location facilities, they have now begun to extend their offers to managed services too, in order to support customers’ changing needs.

Why Businesses Use Co-location

There are a number of reasons why businesses are choosing co-location facilities, with the main driving forces being; flexibility for growth, lower set up costs and the offset risk of unexpected plant maintenance.

Although, having a data centre on site will still be the right choice for many companies.

Using a co-location data centre allows businesses to eliminate much of the capital expenditure associated with building and maintaining their own data centre, while allowing them to retain ownership and complete control of the actual servers and hardware.

The presence of existing connectivity is another key factor for businesses choosing to use colocation rather than building their own data centre. By selecting a co-location data centre, the overhead costs associated with the initial set up, civil works and maintenance of the incoming connectivity are dealt with by the co-location provider and so the end user only pays for a proportion of this and is able to scale their provision with their requirements.

In the short term, a co-location provider will be able to offer a greater level of resilience than provided for, given the same budget in-house. However, as with all co-location services, lifecycle costs must be considered to determine if co-location offers the most cost-effective solution in the long term.

Building a First Class Co-location Data Centre

Having previously worked on colocation building projects, we pride ourselves in being experts into knowing what it takes to build a high-end colocation facility, and anticipating the needs of our clients’ own customers.

Building a co-location facility requires the same core essentials as building a private data centre, though it should be noted that co-location facilities are able to be built at a much larger scale than most private clients require.

Planning the physical space for the site and those services which utilise shared infrastructure, such as High Voltage (HV) Power and Fibre  & Data Connectivity are generally the first stage of construction, along with the consideration of physical security, and site wide vehicular and pedestrian routes.

Selecting a suitable cooling methodology is key to meeting the requirements of the co-location provider, and also meets the needs of the end users which the provider is aiming to cater for. This could mean highly efficient cooling, such as Indirect Adiabatic Free Cooling or could include the ability to cater for very high-density loads. In many cases, the provider will need to be able to offer a range of solutions for the end user to choose from, however, in some instances a best all round fit will be preferred.

Determining the correct level of resilience for the facility, and the associated electrical and mechanical infrastructure will also be key, as data centres generally compete with each other on factors such as overall uptime, reliability, and the ability to tolerate failure or maintenance without impact on the supported load.

The choice of UPS technology and the associated autonomy, along with any standby generation is critical to ensure that the facility is able to meet the requirements of the end users. Where  Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) and Standby Generation are shared with multiple end users, the systems should be able to make the most of the economies of scale presented while still operating at high efficiencies at part loads.

In addition to the main Mechanical & Electrical (M&E) services, ancillary systems, such as Access Control, CCTV, Fire Detection and Suppression, along with some of the more operational requirements of the facility, such as loading bays and build rooms, must all be considered and integrated into the design.

Overall, building a co-location facility is often more complex than that of a private client as the requirements and needs can be more varied, and the end user, being largely unknown, requires a higher degree of flexibility and the likely requirements need to be anticipated rather than known.

If you’re looking to build a co-location, contact us today to find out how we can help.