While advances in virtualization and containerization are reducing the number of physical machines a server needs, growing businesses will invariably need to deploy servers in a larger physical space. However, a purpose-built data center is out of reach for many budgets. That’s why colocation data center providers offer a superior solution to traditional, on-premises server rooms.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Colocation Data Center?
- Best Colocation Data Center Providers
- Who Needs a Colocation Data Center Provider?
- How to Choose a Colocation Data Center Provider
What Is a Colocation Data Center?
A colocation data center is a large data center that provides space for third-party organizations to deploy their own servers and network hardware. Many organizations cannot afford to build and maintain their own data centers; colocation providers fill that gap by renting out their premises.
It’s important to draw a distinction between colocation and the cloud. According to Interxion, “In cloud, servers are owned by the cloud provider and data is managed virtually. In colocation, servers are not owned by the colocation facility, but instead by the business that is leasing the space.”
Many organizations opt for a hybrid solution, where some workloads are physically hosted — on-premises, in a private data center, or via a colocation service — and other workloads are hosted in the cloud.
Best Colocation Data Center Providers
There are many colocation providers, and sorting through them all can be difficult and time-consuming. To help narrow your search, here are our top picks for the best colocation data center providers in no particular order:
Equinix controls an astonishing 11.5% of the global data center colocation market, according to a recent report, far outpacing the competition. That kind of market share means Equinix is well positioned to serve large enterprises; this demographic is a key element of its strategy, via the construction of hyperscale data centers.
Equinix colocation data centers offer suites, built-to-order private cages, cabinets, and custom cabinet configurations. It has over 220 data centers spread across 52 markets in 24 countries on five continents. In 2020, 91% of Equinix’s energy consumption came from renewable sources.
Small businesses may want to look into other providers, as Equinix doesn’t lease rack space. That said, larger organizations will appreciate Equinix’s global footprint and focus on enterprise customers.
Sungard Availability Services (AS) places heavy emphasis on security and recovery with its colocation services. This is unsurprising, as Sungard AS is a leading Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) vendor. This provider also offers significant cloud migration support.
Sungard AS has colocation data centers and disaster recovery centers in 45 locations across North America, Europe, and Asia. It offers a wide variety of scalable leasing options, from rack space and per-unit pricing, to cages and private suites.
Organizations looking to retain absolute control over their server management are ill-suited to Sungard AS. However, businesses of all sizes who are looking for a lot of support services will be right at home.
Digital Realty boasts more data centers globally than Equinix, but lags just beyond them in market share. That said, this vendor is still a giant in the colocation space, and a market leader in interconnection and hybrid cloud infrastructure.
In 2020, Digital Realty completed the acquisition of Interxion, significantly expanding its footprint in Europe. All told, the brand has more than 290 data centers across 49 markets, in 24 countries on six continents. Its housing options range from individual cabinets to cages and private suites. Last year, Digital Realty achieved 100% renewable energy coverage in North America and Europe.
Digital Realty is not a good fit for small businesses, as it lacks rack space leasing options. However, organizations that need flexible network connectivity and bandwidth options, or are looking to adopt a hybrid cloud model, should consider this provider.
China Telecom is a goliath, with 456 data centers in mainland China alone, as well as 187 data centers across 71 metro hubs globally. Aside from its hundreds of data centers, China Telecom is the largest broadband operator in the world.
This vendor offers cabinets, cages, and suites for colocation leasing. While China Telecom supports HIPAA, ISAE-3402, and PCI-DSS compliances, other colocation providers of this size tend to support significantly more compliance.
Businesses operating in Asia should shortlist China Telecom among colocation providers. Even if your needs don’t extend into China, midsize and large businesses with a distributed global workforce should consider China Telecom. However, companies that primarily operate in North America should look elsewhere.
Cyxtera offers scalable colocation solutions for businesses of all sizes. Further, its data centers are carrier and cloud-neutral, providing flexibility for growing organizations. While it’s not the biggest provider on this list, Cyxtera is an affordable, reliable option.
Cyxtera operates more than 60 data centers across 29 markets in North America, Europe, and Asia. It offers a wide range of colocation leasing — including rack space, cabinet, cage, and suite options.
Cyxtera is ideal for organizations that prefer to handle their own server management, but it does offer tiered support subscriptions to handle day-to-day maintenance.
Who Needs a Colocation Data Center Provider?
Any business that wishes to move servers off-site without building their own data centers should consider engaging a colocation data center provider.
Further, large enterprises that already have their own data centers may also choose to utilize a colocation provider to deploy their servers in more locations. Karl Strohmeyer, Chief Customer and Revenue Officer for Equinix, discussed the theory behind this practice in a recent interview with eWeek.
“The sophisticated CIOs are leveraging the cloud applications in a best-of-breed capability set, and what we offer them is a platform from which they can consume that,” Strohmeyer said. “There are workloads that are private in nature that they’re going to want to house in the data center. But they want those workloads proximate to the clouds and the applications that they’re going to access.”
How to Choose a Colocation Data Center Provider
Each organization will have specific needs, but there are several differentiators to look out for when choosing a colocation data center provider.
- Price: The colocation market is crowded, so pricing should be competitive and commensurate with your business’ space needs.
- Location: If your business is distributed geographically, it’s worth considering a provider with multiple data centers. Alternatively, choosing a data center that’s close to headquarters will help if your team needs to do regular maintenance.
- Reliability: Most colocation data centers are extremely reliable, as they specialize in power consumption management, data backups, and low-latency networking.
- Security: From locking racks to security guards to limited entry points, the colocation provider should prioritize the data center’s physical security. Note that your business will still need to implement server security tools on your hardware.
- Scalability: Growing businesses’ needs change over time, so the colocation provider should offer a variety of cabinet and cage sizes, and power configurations.
Choosing the right colocation data center involves weighing the risks and benefits of providers within a crowded market. Whatever your organization’s needs, there is a wide variety of colocation services to choose from.
Read next: Best Server Security Services