In the current climate, businesses want to get the best possible IT services for the best possible costs. Outsourcing is often part of this: from hiving off entire IT functions to simply removing the burden of management by placing IT infrastructure within a separate, managed colocation centre.
Yet even at the colocation end of the outsourcing there are numerous misconceptions that have grown up. These must be dispelled if businesses are to make a rational, informed decision..
Colocation = Costs + Location?
The first misconception that has grown up is that colocation is a costly alternative. However, colocation gives organisations access to capabilities that would be expensive, impractical or both to implement in-house: capabilities such as high-speed network connections, replication of IT infrastructure, backup, increased physical security and energy efficiency.
At the same time, monitoring, expanding and budgeting for IT resources is much simpler when the organisation only needs to control the cost of its infrastructure and the colocation service, rather than extra variables such as power, physical security and so forth.
In terms of location, many still believe that London forms a nexus of UK connectivity and want to exploit perceived connection speeds. However, there are over 140 colocation centres in the UK alone, from Aberdeen to Bournemouth, connected by ever-faster data networks. As a result, connectivity is comparable to London’s without the limitations on space that come from trying to cram inside the M25.
The second misconception is that colocation means a business loses control of its IT infrastructure, increasing their changes of falling foul of regulation. However, while a colocation centre will provide space for a business the IT infrastructure is still theirs and theirs alone. High-speed network access means they will have near-instant access and be able to manage most issues quite simply.
At the same time, they will have a calibre of IT provision that would be often prohibitively expensive to achieve in-house. Meanwhile any reputable colocation provider will be fully certified under regulations and standards such as ISO9001, dealing with quality management, meaning that compliance will often be easier than if the business were to house their own infrastructure.
Security and Reliability: Placing All the Eggs in One Basket?
Thirdly, perhaps the most compelling concern for businesses is the security and reliability of colocation. As mentioned, the business will still have full control over its IT infrastructure so can install all the firewalls and encryption it feels it needs. At the same time, since it is dedicated to this single task a colocation provider’s physical security will be stronger than most businesses could conceivably implement in-house.
Typical standard security would include guards, monitoring, biometric access control and many other measures that would be next to impossible for businesses to implement in their own offices. As such, there is much less risk of unauthorised individuals accessing anything that can affect business operations.
Similarly a colocation centre will be far better placed to ensure the reliability and consistency of IT infrastructure than most businesses’ in-house IT team. They will have backup power generation in place in the unlikely event of a power failure, and the strongest possible systems in place to prevent fire or other disasters. Thus even a serious disaster is much less likely to affect a business’s IT operations.
Getting the Facts Straight
Admittedly myths don’t grow up unaided: over the years there have been a number of stories of colocation projects failing, or at least being unwieldy. However, such things as poor security, a failure to plan for power outages, a focus on London, power-hungry infrastructure and huge data centre costs are very much relics of the very earliest days of colocation: today such experiences are almost non-existent.
Like any IT project with the potential to transform an organisation, businesses must do their research when considering outsourcing or colocating their IT. Any questions they have and more should be answered before embarking on any project, and should be decided based on hard facts rather than hearsay.