A co-located server is a server that is owned by you but located in a hosting companies’ data center. All that the hosting company will provide is rack space, power and Internet connections, and IP addresses. You are responsible for all other needs, the server hardware itself and all of the software that will be running on it.
The first thing that needs to be said is that this is not something that an inexperienced person should consider undertaking. There are many potential pitfalls involved in owning and operating a server and only those people with extensive knowledge and experience in server administration should think about taking this step.
Since you will be owning your own server you will be able to order any hardware configuration that you prefer. Make sure that that you make allowances for any potential future needs, since once the server is deployed at the co-location facility any changes or additions may be difficult and time-consuming. You will also need to specify an on-site maintenance plan in case you get hardware problems – if your server goes down then your whole site will be down until it’s fixed.
You will also be responsible for all of the software that the server uses, application software as well as the basic operating system that will run on the server. While this does mean that you only need install software that you know you will use, this also means that you will be responsible for all support issues with that software. Be prepared to spend a lot of time installing all of the various patches needed to keep the software running securely. You will also need to ensure that the server is configured in a way that will allow it to connect to the hosts’ network connections without any problems.
When choosing a host for your server there are several things to look for. The first is the type of Internet connections available. Make sure that there are multiple data connections available – if one connection goes down then your site will still be available. Network staff should be available 24 hours a day to monitor the connections. All data centers should also offer multiple back-up power systems in case of power failure. Climate-controlled rooms help keep servers operating without problems caused by overheating. There should also be some form of fire-suppression system installed, as well as 24-hour security. Despite all of the above, make sure that you take out a good insurance policy.
Don’t expect too much in the way of technical help from the data center support staff. They will not be familiar with your server or its configuration, and will expect you to have the technical competence necessary to install and maintain the server. However, one thing that you will need is re-boot privileges. Sometimes the server will need to be rebooted, for example after crashing, and it is important that the data center staff can do this for you. You will also need 24×7 access to the data center – if your web site goes down during the night, you will not want to have to wait until the next morning before correcting the problem. However, there are times when you may need extra support – having this available may make your life a little easier in an emergency. You may pay a little extra for this but it may be worth the peace of mind that it offers.
If your site demands the utmost in speed and flexibility then a co-located server is the best option for you. Do think carefully before making this commitment though, as you will be responsible for all facets of the servers’ administration, hardware and software. If you think you have the necessary knowledge and capability to do this, then the benefits to your business will be enormous.