Organizations are increasingly adopting managed colocation services, as these allow them to outsource a greater portion of their IT operations and infrastructure management. This managed hosting enables companies to concentrate on their core business activities while ensuring that their colocation sites and systems are well-maintained and secure.

Managed colocation is a hosting service where the provider oversees and maintains the physical infrastructure, including space, power, cooling, and connectivity. Beyond these basic colocation offerings, managed colocation also includes IT services, support, and management of the customer’s equipment.

Dgtl Infra explains how businesses can take advantage of a wide range of managed colocation offerings designed to optimize their IT infrastructure, deliver high performance, and minimize downtime. Keep reading to discover the key services, benefits, and considerations that make managed colocation a powerful solution for organizations.

What is Managed Colocation?

Managed colocation is a hosting service where a third-party provider rents space in a data center to a customer to house their servers, storage systems, and networking equipment, along with providing various IT services and support. In addition to delivering the physical space, power, cooling, and network connectivity, the provider offers services such as hardware monitoring and maintenance, incident management, patch management, and remote hands.

Managed Colocation Man Pushing Cart Through Data Center Filled with Server Racks and IT Equipment

Managed colocation is frequently chosen by organizations as an alternative deployment option for their workloads and applications, instead of utilizing public clouds, hosted private clouds, web hosting services, bare metal infrastructure, or virtual private servers.

Differences between Traditional vs Managed Colocation

Managed colocation and traditional colocation are both hosting services where a customer’s servers and IT equipment are housed in a third-party data center. In both setups, the colocation data center provides physical space, power, cooling, and network connectivity for this customer-owned equipment.

Differences between Traditional and Managed Colocation Comparison Data Center vs Server Infrastructure

However, managed colocation offers a more hands-off approach for the customer, with the provider taking on more responsibilities for installing, managing, and maintaining the IT equipment. While traditional colocation is self-managed infrastructure, leaving the majority of the installation, management, and maintenance tasks to the customer.

Here are the key differences between the responsibilities of each approach:

Managed ColocationTraditional Colocation
Hardware ManagementProvider offers management servicesCustomer’s responsibility
MaintenanceProvider offers maintenance servicesCustomer’s responsibility
MonitoringProvider offers monitoring servicesCustomer’s responsibility
Incident and Patch ManagementProvider offers incident and patch management servicesCustomer’s responsibility
TroubleshootingProvider offers troubleshooting servicesCustomer’s responsibility
Control over EquipmentShared control between customer and providerFull control by customer
Level of ManagementPartial to fully managed by providerNo management by provider
Customer InvolvementHands-off approachHands-on approach

Managed Colocation Services

Managed colocation providers offer a comprehensive suite of services to support and maintain their customers’ hosted infrastructure.

Managed Colocation Services IT Professional Holding a Tablet in Server Aisle

The following are examples of the services commonly offered in managed colo:

1. Hardware Installation and Maintenance

Managed colocation services involve the provider’s trained technicians handling the installation, cabling, and ongoing maintenance of the customer’s hardware, racks, and cabinets. This includes physically installing servers, storage systems, and networking equipment in the provider’s data center.

The provider also manages planned maintenance tasks such as hardware repairs, replacements, and upgrades to ensure the smooth operation of the colocated infrastructure. Industry-leading managed colocation providers typically guarantee a hardware replacement time of under 4 hours for critical components like power supplies, hard drives, and memory modules.

2. Monitoring and Alerting

Managed colocation services provide monitoring and alerting systems to maintain the health and performance of customer-hosted infrastructure. These services include 24/7 monitoring of key metrics like network connectivity, power consumption, and environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity within the data center.

Network monitoring, environmental monitoring, and Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software are crucial tools used in managed colocation services for monitoring and alerting. DCIM software can monitor over 100 key performance indicators (KPIs) in real-time, including server CPU utilization, network bandwidth usage, UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) status, and Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE).

If any metrics exceed predefined thresholds or if anomalies are detected, the managed colocation provider’s team is quickly alerted. This allows the provider to take proactive steps to prevent downtime and maintain optimal performance of their customers’ systems.

3. Incident Management

Managed colocation services incorporate incident management as a structured approach to identifying, documenting, and resolving issues that impact the availability, performance, or security of a customer’s colocated infrastructure. Such incidents include hardware failures, network outages, power disruptions, security breaches, and environmental fluctuations like temperature or humidity changes.

Incident Management Red Warning Triangle and Exclamation Mark Encapsulated in Binary Code

The provider has a dedicated team that monitors the colocation environment 24/7 to detect and respond to any incidents promptly. If an incident occurs, the provider follows a structured approach, such as the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) framework, to investigate the root cause, implement remediation measures, and communicate with the customer throughout the incident lifecycle until resolution. Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR) is a KPI that is often tracked with incident management.

4. Patch Management and Updates

Managed colocation services include patch management and updates, ensuring that the software and operating systems on customers’ servers are consistently updated with the latest security patches and bug fixes. Proactive patch management can reduce unplanned downtime by 30% to 50%, since many outages are caused by unpatched vulnerabilities exploited by malware.

The provider will typically monitor for new patches and updates, test them for compatibility and stability, and then apply them to the customer’s servers on a regular schedule or as needed. This helps to maintain the security and reliability of the customer’s infrastructure, while freeing up their own IT staff to focus on more value-added tasks.

5. Remote Hands and On-Site Support

Managed colocation services provide remote hands and on-site support, allowing customers to manage their hardware without being physically present at the data center. These ad-hoc services are available 24/7 and are performed on an as-needed basis. They include tasks such as rebooting servers, replacing failed components like hard drives, managing cables, performing basic troubleshooting, and conducting visual inspections.

Managed colocation providers typically offer remote hands services under service level agreements (SLAs), guaranteeing response times such as 15, 30, or 60 minutes from the time of request.

6. Network Security Management

Managed colocation services offer comprehensive network security management to protect customers’ infrastructure from unauthorized access and cyberattacks. Firewall management is a critical component, where the provider configures and maintains firewall systems, managing rules, monitoring threats, and responding to incidents in real-time.

Network Security Management Digital Infrastructure and Lock Illuminated by Connections and Data Flows

Additionally, providers manage Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDPS) to detect and block unauthorized access, intrusions, malware, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Security experts configure and update these systems with predefined rules and behavioral analysis to safeguard the integrity and availability of the customer’s IT assets.

7. Disaster Recovery

Managed colocation providers offer backup and restore services to ensure that their customers’ data is protected in the event of a disaster. This includes regular backups, offsite storage, and quick restore capabilities.

Disaster recovery solutions commonly offer SLAs with a Recovery Point Objective (RPO) of less than 15 minutes and a Recovery Time Objective (RTO) of under 1 hour. This means that in the event of a disaster, the maximum acceptable data loss is less than 15 minutes’ worth of data, and the system should be fully restored and operational within one hour of the disaster occurring.

Benefits of Managed Colocation

Managed colocation offers several key advantages over traditional colocation that can help businesses optimize their IT infrastructure, improve reliability, and focus on their core competencies.

Benefits of Managed Colocation Data Centers IT Professional Walking in Aisle Surrounded by Server Cabinets

1. Support and Expertise

Managed colocation providers offer dedicated, expert support teams that proactively monitor and manage the infrastructure 24/7. This level of support is not typically available with traditional colocation, where the customer is responsible for managing their own equipment.

2. Uptime and Reliability

Managed colocation providers have a vested interest in ensuring that their customers’ infrastructure remains up and running. These providers offer service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee specific levels of uptime, network availability, latency, power availability, and response times for addressing issues. For example, these uptime guarantees often range from 99.9% to 99.999% (often referred to as “five nines”) as part of their SLAs.

To achieve these uptime and reliability targets, managed colocation providers utilize monitoring tools and have technicians on-site to quickly identify and resolve any issues, thereby minimizing downtime.

3. Scalability and Flexibility

Managed colocation allows for easier scalability, as providers can quickly allocate additional resources or assist with hardware upgrades as the customer’s needs change. This flexibility is more limited in traditional colocation, where the customer is responsible for procuring and installing new IT equipment themselves.

Scalability and Flexibility Bar Graph Showing Rising Trend with Digital Data Points on Chart

4. Cost Efficiency

By leveraging the expertise and economies of scale of a managed colocation provider, customers can often achieve lower total cost of ownership (TCO) compared to traditional colocation. Managed service providers can often secure better pricing on hardware, bandwidth, and cross connect fees, passing those savings on to the customer.

5. Security

Managed colocation providers employ heightened physical and network security measures, such as dedicated incident response teams that are specifically trained to handle security breaches and network security solutions that go beyond basic firewalls. These network security solutions include intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) mitigation, virtual private networks (VPNs), and encryption services to protect data in transit and at rest.

6. Compliance Support

For businesses with specific regulatory or compliance requirements, such as HIPAA or PCI-DSS, managed colocation providers can offer valuable expertise and assistance in ensuring the customer’s infrastructure meets these standards. This level of data center compliance support is often not available with traditional colocation.

Compliance Support Hand Holding a Glowing Blue Checkmark Symbol Professional IT

7. Focus on Core Business

By outsourcing the day-to-day management and maintenance of the infrastructure to a managed colocation provider, organizations can free up their internal IT resources to focus on more strategic initiatives that drive the core business forward. With traditional colocation, the IT team may spend more time on configuring, maintaining, and managing their IT infrastructure.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Managed Colocation Sites?

Server Racks in a Large Modern Data Center with Blue Lights and Overhead Cabling Infrastructure

Managed colocation sites are data centers that provide space, power, cooling, and network connectivity for servers, storage systems, and networking equipment owned by their customers. In addition to the physical infrastructure, these sites offer managed services such as hardware monitoring, maintenance, security, and technical support.

For example, a customer might choose to house its servers at a managed colocation site provided by data center companies like Equinix or Digital Realty, allowing them to focus on their core business while the colocation provider ensures the IT equipment stays up and running. Equinix’s managed colocation offerings include full facility maintenance for fire suppression, security, power backup, and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), as well as remote hands technician services and network monitoring services.

READ MORE: Top 10 Colocation Providers

How does Managed Colocation differ from Alternative Deployment Models?

Managed Colocation vs Services Hosting Sites Understanding Colo Management

Managed colocation offers a unique solution for hosting workloads and applications, differing from other deployment options in the following ways:

  • Public Clouds: Managed colocation provides dedicated physical infrastructure, while public clouds offer shared, virtualized resources
  • Hosted Private Clouds: Managed colo involves customer-owned hardware, whereas hosted private clouds are provider-owned and dedicated to a single customer
  • Web Hosting: Managed colocation offers more control and customization over the infrastructure compared to the shared, pre-configured environments of web hosting services
  • Bare Metal: Managed colo includes additional services like hardware management and support, while bare metal infrastructure only provides the physical hardware
  • Virtual Private Servers: Managed colocation provides physical, dedicated servers, whereas virtual private servers are virtualized instances running on shared hardware

READ MORE: Colocation vs Cloud – What is the Difference?

How Does Managed Colo Provide More Reliable Power Distribution?

Managed colocation offers more reliable power distribution through 24/7 monitoring and management by experienced technicians. This allows for prompt identification and resolution of any power-related issues, reducing the likelihood and duration of downtime. Additionally, proactive maintenance and testing of power infrastructure, including regular generator testing and UPS battery replacements, improves performance and minimizes the risk of power-related failures.

Mary Zhang covers Data Centers for Dgtl Infra, including Equinix (NASDAQ: EQIX), Digital Realty (NYSE: DLR), CyrusOne, CoreSite Realty, QTS Realty, Switch Inc, Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM), Cyxtera (NASDAQ: CYXT), and many more. Within Data Centers, Mary focuses on the sub-sectors of hyperscale, enterprise / colocation, cloud service providers, and edge computing. Mary has over 5 years of experience in research and writing for Data Centers.

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