What the Cloud Computing Era Means for Colocation

Cloud computing offers a lot of great things for businesses including easier server usage, storage capacity and even software applications available on demand. However, within the data center colocation industry, how is cloud computing making an impact? Not much has changed since 2005 with many colocation service providers, which is the equivalent to a century for the tech world. There are still multi-year contracts in place, huge space requirements and very little flexibility far too often—this just doesn’t work for most businesses.

Businesses want, need and deserve flexibility, especially when managing workloads on a temporary scale. Private clouds don’t have as much risk when migrating applications, but those come at a princely sum. It’s clear that colocation needs to act more like a cloud, but how is that possible?

Stormy Weather

According to Gartner, “this is the end of the beginning phase of cloud computing,” which means all the kinks have been worked out and customers (enterprise or not) know what they want. However, most applications still depend on a traditional IT infrastructure that is dedicated to one company and is housed on-site or via a third party colocation facility. At the end of 2014, public cloud services accounted for 33 percent of one percent on a worldwide scale when talking about IT spending, says Gartner.

A number of businesses, particularly those on the smaller scale, are slowly migrating away from in-house data centers, which is a great thing. They are seeking out more secure and reliable options, and in that case colocation service providers can fill a disparity—depending on the location and reputation of the colocation provider, of course. For example, a reliable colocation provider with a data center in Utah, featuring 24/7 human security, will do a much better job than a moderately secure data center in a region known for natural disasters. However, Gartner predicts that most businesses will ultiamtely choose to run applications across some type of hybrid cloud landscape created with dedicated infrastructure, software as service (SaaS) and private/public cloud support.

It’s critical to support a hybrid cloud environment, and this requires reassessing colocation. If you want a colocation provider to offer flexibility and act like a cloud, they need to be serving today’s cloud consumption models.

What Colocation Needs to Pace the Cloud

As a potential colocation provider customer, you need to know what to look for in your provider. Start by securing a contract with zero commitment. If a colocation provider requires your commitment for several years, you should question why they need to “lock you in” for so long. Few other tech providers in any niche industry require such a long commitment. The cloud has an on-demand nature, and colocation services need to align with that.

Next, check for online ordering. You should easily be able to find terms, conditions, pricing and options for colocation services on a provider’s website. Ideally, you can order such services online with minimal hassle. Having both online ordering and no commitment contracts offers you agility and scalability, which are both critical for businesses of all sizes. Of course, you should also be able to talk to a “real person” when necessary.

Third, aim for a “direct connect” with a colocation provider which lets you tap into public clouds and local infrastructure on demand. Whenever you can, prioritize interconnection and get it automated. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting time and efforts.

Managed services are paramount with colocation so that clients can deploy servers virtually, manage firewalls and utilize storage in the cloud on an automated level. This is standard with cloud IaaS, but takes a little more work with colocation. To achieve this, colocation providers need more than only remote access. What’s considered basic services such as server management, IT services, backup services, etc. should be readily available.

Finally, don’t forget about customer service. This is where it can be very helpful to go with a local colocation provider. You’re not a “tenant,” you’re a customer. Some colocation providers try to act like real estate investment trusts, and that doesn’t serve the customer well.

A Five-Step Process

These five changes can bridge the gap between what clients want and what the majority of colocation providers offer. It will bring genuine value to the industry, particularly as clients realize they need to comply with a bevy of requirements. However, some colocation providers are leading the way, including providers in Utah. Clients must be reminded (or taught) the value of colocation, and colocation providers can help.

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