Ashdown Technologies, Inc.

Colocating? 10 Things To Consider

Colocating Your Server

You are planning on colocating a server offsite and want to know the right questions to ask.

What Does “Colocating My Server” mean?

We have a web page here that will tell you about colocating your server.  It involves having your own server at an offsite location to protect your data, provide a better physical location, and a more reliable connection to the Internet.  These bring peace-of–mind knowing that your eggs are not all in one basket.

Here are some points to consider when deciding on colocating your server, where it would be best to put it, and what type of server to have.

Real Or Virtual?

Colocating a real server will generally be more expensive, as you must purchase and deliver the hardware, and pay more for rack space to house the hardware.  To give you full control, you will probably want to buy a remote access unit to permit remote rebooting when things don’t go well.  Otherwise make sure that the Network Operations Center (NOC) is staffed 24/7/365 to press the Reset button for you, but this service usually costs more.  However, it will be your hardware and your software will have the exclusive use of it.

The alternative is a virtual server.  As the name implies, this is not hardware, but is a server configured on hardware furnished by the NOC.  The result is a system that is basically indistinguishable from a real server.  But your virtual server is sharing the CPU cycles with all the other virtual servers on the particular hardware, so there may be times when performance may be less than optimal. Virtual servers are usually cheaper to create and manage.

Will I Have Full Control Of My Server?

For a real server you will, all the time the operating system (OS) is running.  But if you want to reboot it or tweak the BIOS settings then you’ll probably need to enlist the aid of a local technician.

But a virtual server can give you full access to the server, including the ability to reboot it remotely, power it up and down, and view performance graphs, if the NOC allows it.

Which Operating Systems Are Available?

A real server can be loaded with any OS you want.  (It’s your hardware.)  But for virtual machines the NOC may only offer a certain selection of OS types and versions, so you need to make sure they offer then one you want.

 Can I Determine The Disk Partitioning Layout?

For your own hardware, of course.  But for virtual servers you should check with the NOC to see if they will accommodate flexible disk partitioning or whether the layouts they offer are fixed.

 Can I Have My Own External Firewall?

This is not a issue for real hardware, but for virtual servers make sure the NOC can provide a dedicated Ethernet port to connect to your firewall (SoHo) hardware.

 Is My Disk Size Limited And Can I Change It?

For a real server the disk size is set by you when you order the hardware.  Expanding it will involve actual hardware changes and potentially involve longer downtime.  You should find out the hourly rate of the NOC technicians, as they will have to perform this work for you, unless you want them to ship the server back to you.

For virtual servers you should ask what amount of disk space is available and what it takes to increase it in the future.  This is much easier to implement on a virtual server and downtime would be minimal, but there will still be a technician cost involved.

 Am I Protected From Large Bills Caused By Excessive Bandwidth Usage?

You should definitely ask this question up front.  A responsible NOC will provide bandwidth rate limiting to make sure that your server does not use a runaway amount of bandwidth.  This might unintentionally be caused by a Denial Of Service (DOS) attack, or faulty software.

 Do the NOC Technicians Speak Good English?

When things go wrong and you need to urgently speak to NOC technician, you do not want a language barrier to get in the way.  You need your server up and running quickly and someone who can quickly and fully understand what you are asking of them.

Security

Your server will be in a room at the NOC with many other similar servers, so the security of the facilities are important.  Find out the policies regarding access by non-staff personnel and the nature of the alarm systems in place to detect an unauthorized entry.

Is an SMTP/Mail Relay Available?

Running a mail server on your colocated server, whether real or virtual, can be a real pain, so ask if the NOC can provide these services to you.  It can save you major headaches dealing with all the technical issues of running a mail server on your colocated server (unless of course, it’s a mail server itself!).

Need a Quote?

We will happily provide you with a free quote.  Fill out our questionnaire so we know what your needs are, and we’ll get one to you right away.

Our Network Operations Center

Ashdown Technologies operates its own Network Operations Center located at its facility in Manchaug, Massachusetts.  It allows us to provide a full range of services to our customers, including web design and hosting, server colocating, email and technical support.

It is fully air-conditioned with the temperature continuously monitored.  Power is backed-up with local UPSs and an industrial 100KW propane generator, fueled from a large underground propane tank farm.  It is connected to the Internet via commercial-grade fiber-optic cables dedicated to our use.

Ashdown’s Answers To These Questions

Here are the reasons why colocating your server with us is worth considering.

Real Or Virtual?

Your server can be either.  For real hardware we can accommodate both rack and tower devices.  For virtual servers we run a number of Hypervisors using the VMware.  Our NOC staff are on call every day of the year.

Will I Have Full Control Of My Server?

For real servers you will, other than rebooting it, which will need to be done by a NOC technician, unless you’ve installed a remote management facility.

For virtual servers you will have full access to control it, including rebooting it or powering it up or down.  And you’ll get performance information too.

Which Operating Systems Are Available?

We can install any operating system (OS) that will run on IBM-compatible style equipment.  For commercial OSs there will be an additional charge to purchase a licensed copy, or you can furnish us with the install disks.  We will not install unlicensed copies of commercial operating systems.

For mainstream open-source OSs such as Redhat, Fedora, CentOS, Windows™ and Ubuntu, we will install the latest version of these for you.  When we’re given the choice, for Unix-like operating systems we recommend the CentOS, Redhat or Enterprise Linux distributions due to their stability and features.

For more obscure OSs, you may need to provide us with the install disks.

 Can I Determine The Disk Partitioning Layout?

Absolutely. We will partition the disk system any way you want.

 Can I Have My Own External Firewall?

Yes, although there will be a additional charge for the dedicated Ethernet port.

 Is My Disk Size Limited And Can I Change It?

For real servers we will work with you to increase the disk space, although the work required may be significant and involve a non-trivial cost.

For virtual servers we can easily increase the available disk space and provide technical assistance to expand the OS to make use of it.

 Am I Protected From Large Bills Caused By Excessive Bandwidth Usage?

Yes. We monitor and rate-limit bandwidth consumption to make sure that there are no unexpected usage bills.  We will alert you if we see any unusual bandwidth usage patterns.

 Do the NOC Technicians Speak Good English?

All our technicians have English as their first language, and we speak both the British and American variants.

Security

Our NOC is always secure and access is only available via proximity sensor devices.  Non-staff personnel are always accompanied by a member of staff while in the NOC.  It has an unauthorized entry alarm system connected to a monitoring station off-site.  A log of each entry into the NOC is recorded electronically.

Is an SMTP/Mail Relay Available?

Yes, we make available full-featured mail servers for all our customers, including those who colocate with us. These servers offer SMTP relay (by IP) so the customer does not need to worry about the recipient’s mail server policies; their own server’s IP/PTR/domain reputation; or SMTP behavior.

Just Have Some Questions?

If you have some general questions about colocation, or any other services we offer, please call us at 508-476-3200, or fill out our contact form by clicking the button below.