Rent or Co-locate: How This All Works
A Secure Managed Service Provider
Renting from a reliable service farm or a secure managed service provider may increase your monthly costs over collocation, and yet in some cases this is not the case. For example, you can rent a server from SecureWebs for as little as $249 a month. Many vendors charge $150 or more to collocate. In the case of large expensive servers that might rent for $500, then clearly the collocation approach might save money. However, in the case of SecureWebs even an economical server is often stronger than one you would purchase for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
In the case of co-location the server farm doesn’t have responsibility for resolution of the problem (that belongs to the hardware vendor), only for responding to the outage and getting the ball rolling. If the hardware maintenance vendor is slow to respond, it’s not the collocation vendor or server farm’s problem.
The Reliable Server Farm
Collocation vendors and reliable server farms that rent hardware want to turn a profit, and that objective can actually provide you with better service. When the vendor, and not you, is responsible for the cost of maintenance, it will tend to use its own on-site-or at least on-call-staff for repairs. That staff can often respond to a problem more quickly than a third-party hardware service.
Likewise, a web-hosting vendor that rents hardware will find it economical to invest in spare parts and even complete spare servers, which means the vendor will not have to rely on the hardware manufacturers’ service agreements. Again, this can mean a quicker resolution to outages. The best option both for you and your Web-hosting vendor-may be to use the hardware supplier to back up the Web-hosting vendor’s own staff rather than the other way around.
Because the vendor owns the servers, it once again has monetary risk. When a server fails, it’s the vendor’s server. It’s not just a matter of how reliable the hardware may be-now the collocation vendor or server farm has its own reputation and service level agreement at stake. All other things being equal, you’ll get more attention this way.
Colocation Server Farm
If your first instinct is to co-locate hardware that you own you are in good company. It’s natural to feel that owning your servers will give you more control. However, consider the following:
The collocation facility will generally not take any responsibility for any of your equipment. They did not choose the hardware, do not have replacement parts for your server on hand or pretend to be on an intimate basis with your hardware selection. It’s a reasonable assumption that they cannot support your hardware in response to a failure. How long will it take you to bring a server back online if something goes wrong and you are responsible? How much is the cost of downtime?
Upgrades: the Managed Service Provider
If you purchase or lease your hardware, you typically don’t have the option of upgrading the servers at will. You own the servers, and you’re stuck with them for the term of the lease or until you sell them. The only choice available is to buy or lease new servers and to find uses for the old ones. SecureWebs is very aggressive about upgrading and building new servers with the latest hardware.
If you’re renting, you may have the ability to upgrade. If you have a rental agreement, look for what it says about upgrading. (Rental agreements are not required at SecureWebs – they are a customer option.) If the hardware is rented from your service provider, upgrades can be accomplished efficiently. The vendor can provision, configure, test, and install replacement servers in a far more orderly fashion.
Finally, the biggest advantage from renting hardware and software from your collocation vendor or server farm is to mitigate lock-in and to reduce switching costs. The payoff shows up if, or when, you need to switch to another vendor. In this case, there are two advantages to renting. First, when making such a move, you may decide that you want a different hardware configuration at your new hosting service, or under the control of a new server farm. You probably learned quite a lot about your Web site-and about your hosting service or server farm-and you may want to do things a little differently the second or third time around.
If you own the hardware, moving your Web site starts to look like a more complex operation, consisting of after-midnight outages with teams of system administrators shutting down servers, unplugging them, throwing them into the trunks of their cars, driving to the new location, and reversing the process. It never runs smoothly. Even a small site will be down for hours. A large one can be down for days.
Also valuable when moving a Web site-and here’s the secret weapon-by renting hardware and software, there exists the option of operating the site simultaneously at both its old and new locations. Rented hardware at the first location can deploy all-new hardware at the new collocation facility. A new configuration can be installed, tested, and running for days or even weeks before you have to shut down the old one.
If you need to move your site, probably it’s not due to hardware problems. Typically, it will be because something else has gone wrong with the relationship with your current vendor. Some rental agreements, however, are only cancelable if there’s a problem with the hardware, so you must make sure (before you sign, right?) that if you cancel your Web-hosting agreement because of a failure of the vendor in some other service, you also have the right to cancel your rental agreement at the same time.
Use renting as part of your exit strategy by mitigating lock-in and reducing your switching costs. Renting gives you the option of operating your Web site simultaneously at old and new locations without the need to purchase duplicate hardware.