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Colocation: Your Connection to the Cloud

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November 10, 2014
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Just because you’re ready to move to the cloud doesn’t mean it’s time to say goodbye to the data center. As you transition to cloud services, colocation can — and in many cases should —play an important role in your overall IT strategy.

Cloud-compatible

First, there’s a good chance not all your applications can easily be moved to the cloud or even belong there.  Although just about any application potentially could exist either partially or fully in the cloud, there may be trade-offs in an application’s attributes or functionality if it wasn’t originally developed for the cloud.

An assessment of your applications — who uses them, how they are used, their impact on workflows, as well as security needs, latency issues and other factors — will help you determine the best place for them.   Do the applications you want to move need to scale? Do you require load-balancing capabilities, not just for service availability, so you can distribute workloads and automatically redistribute resources when needed? Do you have applications that require secure communication to a back-end database that needs to remain in your data center? Do you need services to run from different geographic regions for disaster recovery purposes?

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If some of your applications will be better served by remaining in a data center, developing a hybrid IT strategy that combines cloud resources with colocation will be important. Think of it this way.  The cloud is just another tool that you can leverage; it doesn’t need to replace your existing IT systems — including any colocation facility you use.  Your goal shouldn’t be to move everything into the cloud, but rather to optimize all your IT assets.

A Step in the Right Direction

Simply outsourcing some of your data and applications to a colocation facility is a great first step in developing a level of comfort in letting go of some of the day-to-day control of your assets.  Colocation allows you to maintain ownership of your assets; you just don’t have to invest in the facilities to keep them in-house. And, you have the option of having experts help manage these assets for you.  You can then start gradually moving data to the cloud. Working with the right colocation provider – one that offers cloud services, has a solid track record of success and has the security and regulatory compliance requirements you need in place – will make it all the easier.

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You’re Still Saving

Keeping colocation in the mix also has financial benefits. While the cloud offers savings based on shared server and storage resources, colocation offers savings based on shared facility functionality. You get access to highly efficient, technologically advanced data center resources at a fraction of the cost of building the systems yourself.  A colocation provider can also offer a level of performance and management functionality that most organizations can rarely match, creating a return on investment that greatly exceeds the cost of the colocation plan.

The Data Center Connection

One of the issues with a hybrid IT strategy is that data needs to move in a variety of directions between internal and external resources. It also needs to move fast and reliably. Few organizations have or can afford to invest in advanced networking capabilities. There is also the issue of actually moving your data to the cloud or, in the case of a hybrid IT strategy, between internal and external resources.   Data center operators that offer cloud services can help on both counts.  First, they enable you to put your non-cloud infrastructure in the same facility as your cloud systems, simplifying data movement between the two environments.

They also provide you with access to their operator and interconnect networks, which makes it easier and more cost efficient to quickly move data over large geographical areas and between internal and external assets.   These private interconnects and specialized network systems get data to corporate WAN and LAN systems, adding a layer of security in how information is delivered.

There can also be regulatory requirements that make colocation a better option than the cloud —at least for now as regulatory bodies become more familiar with the protections the cloud can and can’t offer.  Of course, if you can find a colocation provider that offers cloud services and its data centers and cloud infrastructure have all undergone independent assessments for compliance with the requirements of HIPAA, PCI DSS and other standards, all the better.

Colocation Still Has Value

Bottom line: colocation still has an important role to play. The key is not to take an all-or-nothing approach to moving to the cloud. Instead, find ways to benefit from all the resources available to you — including colocation.

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