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Servers: My place or yours?

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It’s practically easier to have your DC in your basement, but strategically silly. If you don’t need physical servers, it’s time to decide if it’s better to locate the virtual servers outside your building.

From a practical standpoint, locating servers in your own data centres and offices would seem to be a good idea. You know exactly where your servers are, how they’re configured, the applications they’re running and how to get them fixed when things go wrong.

They’re also very clearly yours and under your direct control with no ifs or buts when it comes to who owns, not just the hardware and software, but the data and the intellectual property therein.

Strategically, in-house servers make less sense. You have to find and pay for the floor space, and also source and run the servers and all that goes with them - everything from power supplies and air conditioning plant to fast backbone switches, storage, management tools and the staff needed to keep it all going.

You also have to provide for backup and disaster recovery with the end result a very expensive operation that can account for a large chunk of your IT budget.

But does it really have to be that way and, in this age of mass virtualisation, does it really matter where your servers are located?

Maybe, maybe not. Let’s consider some of the options, starting with co-location.

Going co-lo

Co-location or “colo” entails siting your servers in someone else’s data centre, in effect, renting rack space. This retains many of the advantages of in-house deployment, in that the servers, storage and data are still clearly yours.

And you don’t have to worry about building and running the data centre, with all that entails in terms of supplying power, cooling and the like.

Ready availability of fat internet pipes plus, with many, off-site disaster recovery facilities are other co-location advantages On the downside, you still have to buy and maintain server hardware and software, and employ staff to look after it unless you also opt to out-source its management.

Packet racket

Another option is to rent servers as well as rack space from a hositing provider such as Rackspace, Zen Internet and many others.

Here you can opt for dedicated servers, typically from Tier 1 vendors such as HP and Dell, configured to your specification but sourced and installed in the provider’s data centres, delivering all the advantages of co-location and more.

Clearly this approach takes away yet more of the hassle of running a data centre. However, care is needed as you’re then much more reliant on third parties to keep your systems running.

Choosing a reliable provider and establishing a good working relationship becomes essential, backed up by solid service level agreements (SLAs) and a clear understanding of who’s responsible for what.

Equally, it’s important that ownership is clear, especially of the data and intellectual property in the applications involved.

Fluffy loveliness

Such concerns become even more important if you decide to go from dedicated physical to virtual servers hosted on hardware likely to be shared with others.

And it's essential if you choose to sign up for a cloud-based computing solution, such as the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, or Microsoft’s Azure where you rent processing heft rather than servers which, in theory, could be hosted anywhere in the world.

In many ways the cloud could be viewed as the ultimate in server outsourcing enabling companies to reduce overheads but still have access to the infrastructure they want when they need it.

The security and legal implications are immense and you need to be fully aware of what’s involved, and properly protected, before going down this route. ®

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