Tag Archives: Data center

Choosing Colocation vs. Leasing Dedicated Servers & Landlord Appreciation – Part 3

 

Virtual Private Network site to site and from ...

As we learned in the first two parts of this miniseries comparing colocation to dedicated server leasing, the difference between the two is owning versus renting. You can’t always lease or rent a product. For instance, ice cream cones can only be rented in Arkansas, South Dakota, and Hawaii. Larger items such as cars or homes can be rented worldwide, though; the same is true of dedicated servers (colocation versus leasing).

We are assessing ideas pertaining to the debate between the two options from several advice sites, primarily Webhostingfreaks.net, ITworld, and About Colocation. We started with a general rundown of the differences between the two, then moved into stronger arguments. Both of the arguments, from the latter two sources above, side with colocation – which notably gives you more control but has additional upfront expense.

Our main concern is with web servers, but we also wanted to provide pluses and minuses related to home ownership and rental. Let’s explore the subject of pets with regards to housing. Pet owners love renting especially because it is an opportunity to prove to themselves how much they love their animals. If you can find the right landlord, you may be able to pay upwards of $1000 for security deposits for your two Irish setter-bloodhound-chihuahua-St. Bernard mutts. Your dogs don’t understand money, but that doesn’t mean they won’t chew through one of the walls or attack your appliances.
Continue reading Choosing Colocation vs. Leasing Dedicated Servers & Landlord Appreciation – Part 3

Choosing Colocation vs. Leasing Dedicated Servers

 

Amsterdam servercluster in its own rack

With many products and services, we have the choice to go between owning and renting. For some reason that is not true of paperclips or underwear; but it is true of houses, cars, and other large items. Servers are no exception. Because hosting can be expensive, there is a wide range of possibilities for website owners. These possibilities range from power and quality of equipment to financial relationships with equipment.

Two options for servers are colocating one or leasing one from a hosting company. The two options are more similar than they are different. In both cases, you have your own dedicated server. In both cases, you can take advantage of the datacenter expertise of the hosting service’s personnel and physical parameters (climate control, disaster recovery plans, etc.).

Deciding between these two options can be a little confusing, so let’s look at their differences to see what option might be best for you. We will look at three perspectives, from Webhostingfreaks.net, ITworld, and About Colocation. Keep in mind, a couple of these perspectives are very colocation-friendly. Colocation, though, is more complicated to set up and manage, simply because you are the owner of the equipment. You must pick out what to buy, and it is more of an investment.
Continue reading Choosing Colocation vs. Leasing Dedicated Servers

10 Questions to Ask Your Data Center

 

English: Inside one of Switch and Data's facil...

What do you need to know about a data center, whether using it for hosting or co-location? Above all, of course, you must know that your data will be safe and that support will be there when you need it. More specific questions should often be asked before making your choice. A number of important ones are listed below. (Additional good questions to ask if visiting the data center are, “Where is the restroom?” and “May I please have a promotional T-shirt to commemorate my visit?”)

For this piece, I looked at the perspectives of Barbara E. Hernandez of PC World and William Dougherty of Data Center Knowledge.

1.)    How physically secure are you?

IT security can be explored from two primary angles – virtual and physical. With data centers, since they will be the actual location of your servers, start out by considering the physical component. Barbara advises that data centers be housed in “a standalone building with at least a 20-foot, fenced perimeter and a secure, cool core of servers.” She recommends that the location not be directly adjacent to your office. It should also contain standard measures such as surveillance cameras and security guards. There should be two points of entry. Access should be granted by photo ID.

Employees at the data center should all be trained for emergency situations (rather than being reliant on managers or specialists). Emergency protocol should include the usage of back-up generators and immediate, crucial data back-up to another location. There should also be servers available at a different data center that can be made available if disaster strikes (such as a hot-air balloon crash or an organized infiltration by thousands of Romanian cyber-sparrows). The data center should receive electrical power from two different sources so that uptime is maintained in the event of a blackout or brownout.

2.)    What parts of the data center are concurrently maintained and fault tolerant?

As William argues, you want your data center to properly maintain its equipment, but you also need to know that while equipment maintenance is in process, fault tolerance is still in place. In other words, while that maintenance is underway, if the power goes out or hardware otherwise fails, are reasonable backup checks still in place?

In the event of a number of problems occurring at the same time, make sure you are protected, at least beyond a single redundancy (bare minimum, 2N or N+2). William writes, “Your critical IT infrastructure operates in a world where utility outages or equipment failures happen.” Make sure that you have multiple layers of protection.

3.)     How are you optimizing energy efficiency?

As we all know, energy efficiency is not just important to environmental sustainability – it is also a key way to reduce the cost of operating any high-power system. The management of the data center, according to Barbara, should always be open to ideas from customers and any new innovations that can minimize power expenditures. Barbara lists eBay and Facebook as frontrunners in this effort, forming a relationship with the utility suppliers for their data centers to enhance the effectiveness of their cooling technologies (“Blow on them every once in a while,” offered one official). “Granted,” she writes, “both eBay and Facebook probably have more clout than a small business, but your data center should be listening to all of its customers.”

Having the most up-to-date hardware can cut down on power costs as well. Newer, more energy-efficient models can reduce cost as much as 40%.

4.)    What are the data center’s average and maximum power densities?

In the early stages of the data center industry, facilities were not built with as high of power densities as they are now. These centers put more room between cabinets to allow for increases in density as needed. Data centers typically allow between 100 W and 175 W per square foot. Newly designed data centers tend to be built for a range of 225 W to 400 W per square foot.

That covers the square footage power capacities. The power density of an individual cabinet must be examined as well. A decade ago, as William points out, cabinets could have a 2 kW limit. Now, you want your rack to allow for 8 kW to 10 kW. Furthermore, this increase in density maximum is still on the rise. William advises, “Expect your required power density to climb and make sure your data center has the infrastructure to grow with you.”

5.)    How does your cooling system operate?

The core temperature of any room in which servers are placed should be between 68 and 75°F. Typically, about 50% of the overhead of running a data center is the cost of cooling it, per Barbara’s assessment. Even though it is so outrageously expensive to cool, many data centers overdo it, pushing the temperature below the minimum threshold of 68° (with the added bonus that the room can then also be used to refrigerate their groceries).

Many data centers now operate the climate control of their facilities through a control panel, with monitors and gauges throughout the buildings to ensure temperature is ideal and power bills are minimized.

6.)    How are you protected against the common regional natural disasters?

Wherever your data center is located, it can be a victim of a natural disaster – including hurricanes, snowstorms, tornadoes, earthquakes, and wildfires. William lists one possible devastating scenario: “the data center survives a massive earthquake, but utility power is still out with no estimated repair timeline.” You want to know, under such circumstances, the length of time that the facility can continue to supply power via its generators with the fuel it has on-site. Furthermore, does the data center have a number of different suppliers available to bring in extra fuel during an emergency?

Make sure that you fully comprehend the most likely types of emergencies that might befall the facility. Based on that information, develop emergency plans to mitigate risk.

Barbara’s commentary on this issue is also worthy of mention. She cites the 2007 power outage that brought down 365 Main’s facility in San Francisco. 40% of the data center’s customers experienced downtime that lasted for about 45 minutes. The problem in that case was that not all of the generators kicked on as intended. Eight were required for backup purposes, but only seven started due to a malfunctioning electronic controller.

What 365 Main’s clients learned from this, says Barbara, was “to find out how a data center plans to notify customers in an immediate emergency, keeping them apprised of latest developments and the status of their company data or services.”

7.)    What skills and training do the remote hands and eyes team have?

Servicing of your hardware will need to occur at regular intervals. There are two ways to perform this maintenance, says William: visiting the data center yourself or taking advantage of the data center’s remote hands and eyes technicians. You probably do not want a security guard performing this task, as sometimes occurs. The remote hands and eyes team should consist of individuals with IT credentials. You want to know what the requirements are for attaining that role. Speak with the person in charge of daytime and nighttime support. If a remote team is credible, your physical closeness to the data center’s location becomes less of a concern (if not, always be within a 400-meter radius of the facility, and wear your binoculars).

8.)    What is the Data Center’s virtual to physical machine ratio?

How virtual is the facility? Virtualization is a good way to reduce your expenses. Barbara points out that a ratio of four-to-one allows server expenses to break even. However, the majority of servers can support as many as a dozen virtual private servers (VPSs). Maximizing virtual possibilities means higher efficiency regarding hardware, power, and rack space – so its cost-effectiveness is manifold.

9.)    How frequently are generators load tested?

Load testing of generators is expensive – both because the equipment for testing is costly and the high amount of fuel used, says William. Data centers sometimes use a power outage itself – which is obviously not a test situation – to check if there generators can handle loads or not (which is also not a good time to load test a clown car). This routine maintenance is essential so that generator issues are discovered prior to emergency situations. You want your facility to give each generator an extended load test every quarter at the minimum.

10.)    How is the data center certified, and is it audited each year?

Certifications are a simple, standardized way for a data center to provide you with credentials. As William states, “This information is invaluable because it represents an independent analysis of the facility’s quality, reliability and security.” If your website takes payments, for instance, you want your data center to be PCI-DSS compliant. Financial firms require SSAE 16. If your business is green-friendly, the LEED Gold and Energy Star certifications are crucial. Verify your data center is legitimate by asking for documentation of any certifications they claim to have.

Conclusion

Comparing datacenter options is a rigorous process. Knowing some crucial questions to ask can keep your data in safe hands even if it is not at your own immediate fingertips.

When reviewing whether a data center is the right choice for you, first, look at its physical security components. Then consider the relationship between concurrent maintenance and fault tolerance, along with its energy efficiency. Ask about its power densities, cooling systems, and contingency plan for natural disasters. Know the skills of the remote hands and eyes team, the virtual to physical ratio, and the load testing schedule for the generators. Finally, check on certification and auditing. Once you have all this information, you will have performed due diligence and are prepared to make a wise decision for your IT infrastructure.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

An Overview on Colocation

Server Rack - Superb Internet
Server Rack – Superb Internet

Colocation is a general term in the Web industry. It is any situation in which hardware is sent to another business’s location for housing. You, as the owner of the hardware, still have full access to it, but you are using the environment to store your equipment and to take advantage of the facility’s services.

As the concept is commonly used in hosting, it specifically involves sending your server to a data center to take advantage of their hardware friendly environment, especially with regards to security and climate. In other words, colocation has the same advantages as hosting does, but you are able to own the physical server as opposed to using space on the hosting company or data center’s servers.

(Note that when your husband tells you that he wants to colocate with another woman to optimize for security and climate, that’s a warning sign. Unfortunately, you may need to get a new husband.)

Basic Advantages of Colocation

1.    Bandwidth Costs

Your cost for bandwidth should be reduced in a colocation scenario. This occurs because you’re tapping directly into the bandwidth at a data center. You’re taking a piece of a big pie – as opposed to requiring that your own bandwidth be allotted to the physical location of your business. Network connectivity also becomes more redundant.

(Another warning sign is when your husband calls to excitedly tell you about his new redundant family.)

2.    Security

You get to benefit from the firewalls and other security protocols of a professional data center. Undoubtedly this will be an upgrade from your current security environment, unless you already have a full-time dedicated employee in charge of security. Data centers are constantly monitoring the security of their networks to ensure no Russian spies or angry teenagers invade the system.

Your data is also backed up, typically, on a more regular basis. Colocation partners will back up your data as much as every day. Additionally, you aren’t impacted at all by the other clients using colocation because those clients have their own servers as well.

Your physical security is also often improved with colocation. Security equipment such as surveillance cameras, as well as protections against fire and flooding, are common necessities for data centers so that customers can feel comfortable knowing the environment is safe for their hardware.

(Most colocation centers also have a missile-defense system and have the green light from the military to set fire to their entire stockpile if the Germans attack, firing off weapons in all directions at random and leveling the whole town.)

3.    Emergency Preparedness

A business may have backup generators, but it still won’t always be strong enough to keep power going during inclement weather or natural disasters. If your electricity goes out for an extended period, do you want your sites to go down as well? Even a generator won’t always protect you. In a colocation environment, again, you have an expert system focusing specifically on issues such as power backup, so storms won’t throw your business off the Web.

As you can see, these are improvements – upgrades to what your business might already have in place. For example, a colocation environment might even have its own fuel on hand, allowing it to go far beyond what’s possible with a charged generator. Colocation environments, then, are centers designed for emergency-preparedness. They are insurance, in a sense.

(Similarly, your disco ball, strobe light, and smoke machine are insurance against party poopers, keeping this soiree from stopping prematurely, aka any time prior to the break of dawn.)

4.    Space

Something that’s always easy to miss when we discuss the advantages of one network situation or another are the physical aspects – even just in terms of space. As a business grows, it can become more and more challenging to allot the necessary space for servers, as well as the environment necessary to properly care for them and keep them cool.

Due to concern with having the best possible environment, many companies have to consider whether to have their own in-house data center or to outsource that responsibility to another company. One consideration with a data center is not just all the parameters of security and storage room and climate, but how much that’s all going to cost. An easy way to defray costs is to collocate so that it’s your equipment, but experts with many different clients are allotting space to you and other businesses.

(If your husband tries to convince you he’s colocating to defray costs because his new family is closer to his work and allows him to cut down on fuel, he actually does have a valid point, and you should cheer him on for his green-friendly zeal.)

5.    Ownership

In a colocation situation, as opposed to a typical hosting scenario, you own both the hardware and the software. So if you ever, at any point, want to upgrade your hardware, you just go ahead and do it. It’s your machine. You just make out the switch. You know what you have, and you go out and buy a new one if the cost and features make sense.

Similarly, if you want new software to run the server, you go out and buy that as well. Any of the ways in which a hosting arrangement might keep you from making the immediate upgrades and changes you want will not be experienced with colocation. Once you know what you want, you can immediately make the change without having to switch plans or ask the hosting team to make alterations on your behalf.

(One of the most important colocation strategies is not to change the hardware or software, but instead to reorganize what’s on the current server by “shuffling” it. Shuffling the server involves hiring someone at the data center to pick it up and shake it as hard as they can.)

6.    Location, location, location

One of the greatest advantages of colocation is that you don’t ever need to move the servers. Once your hardware is in the colocation facility, it doesn’t matter what happens to the business. Everything can remain at the data center for as long as you like, regardless your physical location.

Basic Disadvantages of Colocation

1.    Distance

Obviously, as with hosting via a data center, all your hardware is at a distance. If you like to have immediate access to your equipment and have it stored within a facility that you own, colocation is not for you. (Similarly, you will want to get your own Weed Eater rather than always borrowing Tommy’s.) Keep in mind, the expense of your own data center is substantial – much more substantial than colocation or hosting.

2.    Expense

To extend the financial aspect, colocation can be more expensive than hosting because you’re using your own equipment. It’s easier for a data center to use its own servers to provide you service. This aspect varies, but expense is often a disadvantage.

Summary

Colocation is not for everyone, and there are many reasons to choose that model for your company. It’s easier in many ways because a company that specializes in server housing and security is handling that aspect of your business. However, hosting via servers at a hosting company is often an easier and more cost-effective way to go. Some larger companies also like to keep their servers on-site in their own data center. (Whatever you do, don’t take Tommy’s Weed Eater on Saturday morning, when he does his yard. You don’t want him to have to peer over the fence, awkwardly staring at you while you finish up the area around the shrubs.)

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood