This debate has raged on for years, two behemoths fighting it out in the arena that is the cloud computing world, with compelling arguments being presented for both sides. Some people resolutely defend the extensive security of Colocation, whereas others raise convincing points for the flexibility that the cloud presents. However, it may be that there is no superior option, but rather one that best fits the user’s needs, or perhaps could this be where the term “Hybrid” plays its part by bring them both together…

Colocation

A Colocation facility, often abbreviated to Colo, is a data centre facility wherein a business can rent space, power and cooling for their IT hardware, usually consisting of an assortment of servers, storage devices, switches and firewalls. This is a popular approach with over 280 Colocation data centres currently operating within the UK.

One of the main benefits of using a colocation facility is that it is generally cheaper than the alternatives, such as hosting on-premise. This is because doing so requires an initial investment in the facility itself, which is then further exacerbated by the costs of maintaining and updating said facility. This is done through the likes of air conditioning for cooling the equipment, Generators and Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) in the event of a power outage. Through utilising colocation, access to this entire array of necessary services is included in a monthly fee and the data centre is responsible for any and all “maintenance” elements required.

Another benefit to Colocation is the additional security that this approach can provide, as data centres are usually operated on a 24/7 basis, being managed constantly to ensure that security is maintained to the highest degree. Additionally, these data centres often have other security measures in place, such as CCTV, man traps and entry restrictions in place to keep user’s data secure.

A possible downside to Colocation would be the additional costs that this approach may create. While initially seeming like the cheaper option, this approach leaves a great deal of room for hidden costs, and may actually make this approach not as financially viable as it may initially seem. In such a fast paced, ever-changing industry, it may be necessary to carry out regular updates to infrastructure, introducing new elements to accommodate new services or products, having to renew warranty of equipment, whilst also continuing to maintain the server which in turn could have failures itself. It is clear to see how doing so may incur additional costs.

“The Cloud”

The cloud is an umbrella term that is used to describe a network of connected servers that provide customers with the ability to rent servers and host their infrastructure on them. According to 451, 90% of businesses will operate on the cloud within the next to years. There are two main types of cloud:

Private Cloud – This is a bespoke, built environment dedicated to a customer. As such, they are the only user to have access to that system, providing higher levels of security and privacy through using additional security features, such as company firewalls. A private cloud is a cloud service that is not shared with any other organization. The private cloud user has the cloud all to themselves.

Public Cloud – A public cloud is a type of computing in which a service provider makes resources available to the public via the internet. Resources vary by provider but may include storage capabilities, applications or virtual machines.

Perhaps the biggest advantages to cloud hosting are that it is fairly reliable and that this approach reduces the overheads of running your own infrastructure. The reliability of this approach is achieved through running infrastructure across multiple locations and easily configuring the ability to DR (disaster recovery) to other sites if configured to do so. When comparing against colocation, users will need to consider implementing a secondary site, so as to enable these backup and disaster recovery capabilities. This could increase the planned costs of cloud hosting without any owned assets, whilst colocation allows users to continue to own the asset with the control remaining in-house.  

The cloud also provides a scalable approach to computing, with many cloud providers owning multiple data centres across different regions and locations, provisioned with readily available equipment to host your application or workload. This ability to use existing infrastructure provides users with access to a significant number of resources, with options that make it easy to acquire more processing power, depending on the requirement. Colocation provides users with the ownership of an environment, but future proofing and planning will need to form part of the strategy to ensure the environment has this scalability to accommodate more workloads and applications over time.

Moreover, relative customisation is available through the cloud, with the option of solutions to fit a particular application, infrastructure or requirement with the ability to add or subtract elements as needed. This creates a great flexibility in options and ensures a cost-effective strategy that is tailor made.

Though, there are downsides to cloud hosting too. Depending on Geographical location, users could experience significant problems with latency, due to the excess distance that data must travel from office to environment and back.

graphic showing data points around the globe

Another concern which is often overlooked are the potential data egress charges which could occur. These charges come about when cloud providers allow users to input data into their cloud network free of charge, but then charge them when that data is retrieved from the cloud. Some cloud services may also charge users for running commands such as SQL. For many industries who require thousands/millions of commands to be run daily, this can be very taxing and could cause an unknown additional expense to the business, which can sometimes not be a considered factor when contemplating a move to a cloud based approach.

Other businesses may not favour this approach because while they are able to run and manage a cloud environment, they do not in turn own the assets for this infrastructure. Independently purchasing equipment allows a business to have physical ownership of said equipment and allows a degree of flexibility in decision making. If decisions are made to revert back from a cloud environment to a Colocation or Hybrid environment, there will be an additional need to source the physical assets to do so and planning the migration.

Another concern could be for the security of data stored on a third-party networks. Factors like data residency still continue to play a part in corporate decision making as many users fear for the security of their private data. Running infrastructure independently means businesses may have a degree of additional security measures available to them as well as physically being able to see and know exactly where their equipment resides. Because of this, businesses may have a slight concern of moving entirely cloud based.

Hybrid

Another popular approach is Hybrid, this provides users with the best of both worlds, by being a mixture of public cloud, private cloud and colocation environments or even a public cloud with colocation approach. Hybrid, like the name suggests, combines the features of all of these elements to create a “Hybrid” Infrastructure.

This allows a business to cater for user needs in a dynamic and diverse way that provides them with specific infrastructure for a variety of workloads and requirements, for example Research and Development may work best in a Public Cloud environment with the ability to turn on and off infrastructure whilst production workloads may work best in a colocation environment where control is in place. This makes this approach very cost efficient as it improves the way the workload is managed, but the analysis comes down to what would be suitable in each of these environments.

Moreover, by having a hybrid solution, users could gain the benefits of cloud services, and store some part of their data on the cloud, whilst also securing more sensitive data privately, giving them both the security and flexibility of each. This makes this approach very effective for giving users a “pick and mix” type experience where different elements can be applied for respective data.

Perhaps the biggest downside to this approach would be the need for staff to help maintain these servers. By having a hybrid environment the need for staff members who are well versed in their skill set to manage both a colocation and a public cloud setup, may be harder to find and a blend of different skill sets would probably be needed. Staff members would need the ability to understand how support and ongoing management of these environments can continue effectively. This can be expensive as it can often mean that an employee is hired for each.

So what’s better? Colocation, or The Cloud?

Ultimately, the answer to this debate really depends on what a business needs and values the most.  Colocation can be a very secure option, and is a popular choice because of this, however the additional costs that could creep up with this approach could make it unfavourable for some. Conversely, “The Cloud” is often the more scalable option, but for some, potential latency problems or the lack of ownership of the assets may be significant factors against. Often times, a hybrid approach is more favourable as although highly skilled support is often needed to account for this approach, a hybrid environment does also allow the flexibility of the cloud as well as the ownership and security elements surrounding colocation.

If you would benefit from speaking with the Vissensa Technical team about your Colocation or Cloud requirements, give us a call today: 02382 357 800

Sources: https://www.datacentermap.com/united-kingdom/
https://451research.com/blog/1933-more-buying-less-building-in-the-age-of-consumption