Colocation is possibly the most difficult service wherein you may find a reliable host. The very idea steps a bit out of a typical web host’s comfort zone. Your setup is done your way, using (usually) your hardware; things that are normally in the web host’s hands are now in yours. The reason web hosting is such a lucrative business is that individual accounts can be setup by the thousands in a cookie-cutter fashion. Co-location is like asking for a cake, often to your shape and decoration.
Of course, this doesn’t mean it can’t be done, otherwise it wouldn’t be offered anywhere. If this is a service that you need, then you can still find lots of good hosting companies that can offer this to you. However, you need to ask one important question first.
Is there another way?
There is not much that colocation hosting can offer you that you can’t get through other services, such as managed hosting. Sometimes even just a normal shared/budget hosting account can give you everything that you need. Remember also that most of the advantages that come from colocation, such as near-100% uptime and 24/7 support, usually come bundled with other reputable service providers.
On the other hand, colocation comes with the distinct disadvantage that, since your server is specialized, your tech support is likely to be down a notch or two even at the best companies. Web hosts standardize their services for a reason. A quarter-million accounts is enough trial-and-error to hammer out just about every software bug a host might encounter. Bring a server in with its own toys and you introduce the possibility of unforeseen problems that they’ll be addressing from scratch. When that happens, you’re not going to wish the server was right in front of you, not a thousand miles away with a technician who will call you back.
Not scared away yet?
You’ve taken into account the problems and still want to obtain a colocation hosting account. Good for you: this is still a viable service. So how can you make it work best for you?
Here are a few quick questions to ask:
1. Does your host normally support your operating system?
Even if a host offers to the contrary, don’t go with a host that doesn’t have your machine’s operating system among their normal offerings. Even with an honest effort, the learning curve will be too high.
2. How will server updates be handled?
Will you be perofmring them or will they? And is there a per-installation fee?
3. What are the data transfer rates?
This one could go either way. Though hosts have the kind of bandwidth that you don’t, they also know the associated costs. Sometimes, what you are already getting at home will actually be cheaper. Note, though, that this is a market dynamic that most experts see as coming to an end.
Colocation might be the most specialized of all of the “normal” offerings you can get from a web host. That doesn’t make it undoable. Double-check to make sure it’s for you. If it is, there are plenty of good places out there for your site.