As the costs of building and maintaining an on-premises data center continue to escalate, more and more organizations are choosing to conserve capital by moving their IT hardware to third-party colocation facilities. While colocation delivers many proven benefits, it can also create management challenges.
In a colocation arrangement, customers lease space in a provider’s data center facility to house the hardware they own. This relieves them of a range of operational burdens while providing access to enterprise-grade power, cooling, connectivity, and physical security. However, they remain responsible for the maintenance and management of their servers, switches, routers, firewalls, and other gear.
Managing and maintaining equipment at a remote data center can be a significant burden for organizations with limited IT staff — particularly if the colo facility isn’t within easy driving distance. A minor problem can turn into a huge outage during the time it takes IT staff to reach the facility. Weather and traffic issues can exacerbate problems.
Monitoring the health of devices over a distance can also be challenging. Without easy access, it can be difficult to conduct regular assessments of hardware assets. After-hours issues can be particularly problematic — many providers enforce access restrictions to ensure the physical security of assets belonging to multiple clients.
Most colocation providers offer premium “remote hands” and “smart hands” services to assist in such situations. Remote hands services typically cover a variety of basic tasks such as rebooting servers, connecting cables, and basic observation and reporting. Smart hands services cover more complex tasks such as deploying and configuring gear, equipment troubleshooting, and circuit testing.
However, these services can become expensive. Because they are typically used on an as-needed basis and billed at an hourly rate, it can be difficult to budget for these services.
In many cases, the better approach is to partner with a managed services provider (MSP) who will monitor and maintain colocated equipment for a predictable monthly fee. Best-in-class MSPs have advanced remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools that provide visibility into all of a customer’s systems — on-premises, colocated, and in the cloud. This approach essentially allows customers to let their MSP maintain SLAs for the foundational layers of their overall IT infrastructure, while letting them focus on enhancing their customer service and experience. Simply put, letting an MSP deal with day-to-day operations allows customers to focus on higher service levels and improving their customer experience.
An MSP will take responsibility for essential server management tasks such as installing patches and updates, reviewing event and error logs, and monitoring usage patterns and uptime thresholds. In many cases, an MSP can also identify and mitigate issues before they affect performance. Using RMM tools, an MSP can often remotely control systems and applications using encrypted data channels to quickly resolve problems without the delay and disruption of an onsite service call.
Many MSPs offer more specialized services such as network design, help desk support, disaster recovery, and more. In addition, an MSP can provide enhanced security and compliance by ensuring that security measures are implemented and updated. Software patches, antivirus updates, and firewall monitoring are among the critical tasks IT staff can offload.
A provider can also offer valuable insight into colocated assets. Using data gathered from systems, an MSP can generate customized reports to identify usage patterns, evaluate the overall condition of the environment, and recommend strategic IT investments. This data can help customers explore the potential benefits of emerging technologies.
Colocation is a great choice for organizations that don’t want to operate an on-premises data center but still want to keep essential workloads on privately owned systems. However, it is important to remember that you are still responsible for the upkeep of any hardware you choose to house in a third-party data center. Give us a call to learn how colocation combined with managed services gives all the advantages of hosted hardware without any of the management headaches.