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I'm new to the subject, so I apologize in advance if this is a basic no brainer question, but what I would like to know is that generally speaking, does Colocation provide for you in terms of hosting the actual machine? Do they just provide a spot on a rack for you to plug an existing machine into? Or do they include that as well?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

With co-location you are basically renting 3 things:

  1. Space to put your machine (1U, 2U, shelf, rack, cage sq feet, etc)
  2. Electricity to power your machine one (measured in Amps)
  3. Network to connect your machine to the internet or other network (depends, usually measured in mbps)

With most colocation (colo) providers, you are responsible for your own hardware. This is differentiated from a dedicated server hosting provider which purchases and sometimes maintains the hardware and software in the datacenter. If you are going colo, that means you are responsible for both the hardware and the software of the machine. The network is usually managed by the colo provider, however in some situations you can actually bring your own network in.

Some colos will let you into the datacenter to install your machine, and some will have you ship the machine and they will install it. You can typically purchase hands-on time if you need someone at the datacenter to do work on your hardware.

This can differ from company to company, so just make sure you are clear before purchasing what your colocation account includes.

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Note that sometimes the "space" is simply some square footage in a cage, and sometimes it includes a rack to put your machine(s) into. Just depends on how much you need and your requirements. – NotMe Oct 19 '09 at 16:18
Thank you - edited for clarity. – Dave Drager Oct 19 '09 at 16:24
Sometimes the provider limits your total bandwidth, other times it's "all you can eat". Also, some of them provide remote power control - you can log into their web site and power cycle your box. Another nice feature some give you is a remote console that you can use to actually get to the BIOS setup screen and boot screen to boot a different kernel. – Paul Tomblin Oct 19 '09 at 16:48

With colocation, you provide your own machine. You'd set it up to boot headless and with the networking configuration they supply you with. You then ship it to their datacentre, where they rack it for you and supply you with network, power and cooling.

The alternative is what's known as a dedicated server, where they provide you with a server, with an operating system already loaded, which you effectively rent from them. The ISP is responsible for fixing hardware problems.

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