SVLuma - Fotolia

Words to go: Data center colocation services

Don't jump feet first into the colocation pool. First, make sure you understand the different options for colocation services and agreements, using these key terms below.

Enterprises that want to avoid building and maintaining their own data centers often look to colocation for relief.

When you buy or rent space in a colocation facility, the enterprise data center lives off premises, but administrators can still choose the servers, storage and other systems that live within. Still, the move is often viewed as a business decision to reduce on-site expenses in favor of a more centralized and managed approach.

But before you choose data center colocation services, it's important be aware of the rapidly changing colocation market, and the wide variety of terms associated with it. Here's a brief list of words you should know before you take that step.

Colocation facility: A colocation facility is the physical data center space that a provider rents to customers. A colocation facility may be in the same city or across the country from the user. Users can rent out space by rack, room, cabinet or cage, based on their compute needs. While customers typically provide their own servers and other IT equipment to put inside the facility, the provider offers cooling, power and bandwidth.

Colocation provider: A colocation provider is a vendor that offers data center space for other businesses to purchase or rent for a contracted period of time. Providers such as Equinix, Telehouse, NTT Communications and others sell space to companies around the world. The provider and its customers agree on terms of use and maintenance for the IT systems that reside within the provider's space.

Service-level agreement (SLA): An SLA is a contract between a service provider, such as a colocation provider, and its customers. This contract will outline terms around vendor support, how to implement changes, service levels around latency and bandwidth, and a number of other factors.

Never simply sign an SLA to expedite the transition to data center colocation services. Carefully examine your SLA to understand everything that is, and isn't, covered in the data center colocation services you select. Then, monitor your SLA and wade through the jargon to ensure that your provider is trustworthy.

Noisy neighbors: Nobody wants to be the loud and destructive tenant upstairs -- and the same can be said with IT. In a shared data center space, like a colocation facility, tenants that use excess bandwidth and compute resources are called noisy neighbors. The use of excessive resources in a colocation environment by one tenant can negatively affect the performance of other tenants' workloads. Make sure your colocation agreement specifies the amount of resources at your disposal, and what to do if you -- or someone else in the facility -- consumes too many.

Remote hands: If you want to take a more hands-off approach to colocation, consider remote hands – a service offered by colocation providers that offloads customers' IT management tasks to technicians. You still rent the space, but third-party staff, hired by the provider, will handle technical issues, such as a server refreshes, so you can turn your attention to your own, on-premises initiatives.

Colocation marketplace: A colocation marketplace is an online service that connects customers with third-party vendors and other service providers that are optimized to work with that particular colocation service. Marketplace services could include those related to security, connectivity and more. New tools are also available to facilitate match-making between users and vendors.

Interconnectivity: Interconnectivity refers to a data center colocation services -- often found in the marketplace – that provide dedicated and high-performance connections from a colocation facility to the public cloud. Often, organizations will use these interconnectivity services to more toward a hybrid IT model.

Managed or hosted colocation: In this colocation option, the provider owns the IT equipment and fully manages it on each customer's behalf. This can be a more costly model, but takes maintenance and updates out of your hands. Review your colocation agreement or SLA to see pricing for managed services, as well as what the provider offers for maintenance and disaster recovery.

Physical security: This type of security -- meaning that of the actual colocation building -- is just as important as technical security. Security cameras, security guards and access control logs can monitor who's going in and out of the facility. The physical security market is expected to grow in the next couple years, as colocation agreements emphasize security from all different levels.

Next Steps

For your disaster recovery plans, is colo the way to go?

Pick the right side in the cloud vs. colo debate

Make the proper call on IT operating models

Dig Deeper on Colocation, hosting and outsourcing management