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What are the pros and cons of buying your own dedicated servers and putting them in a data center yourself (along with firewall, router, storage, etc.) versus just renting? I have always rented but have wondered what cost savings could be gained by owning the equipment. The dedicated servers I rent are typically around 60-70 USD / month and that also includes bandwidth and power which seems like a good deal...

I would love to hear anyone's experience and advice in the matter. Thanks...

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    $60-70 per what? Day? Month? Week? – Mark Henderson Aug 11 '10 at 4:15
  • The 60-70 is per month – jjxtra Aug 11 '10 at 16:36
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They are two different beasts. A good match to your needs is more important than cost.

A rent-setup allows for certain "optimizations":

  • Some will employ very simple security in the datacenter, because only their personnel needs to get in (no cages or locks)
  • may run bare motherboards on ikea racks (no joke).
  • elevated temperature thermal strategy - not too bad in practice, but you can't show it to customers
  • run on specifically optimized power cirquits (12V DC directly to the mainboards)
  • and of course they recycle servers (best way to tell: numer of run hours on the hard disk or old intel cpu model number)
  • Not being geographically bound to your area opens up a lot more competition. If you don't care about the area, country, continent there are thousands of big and small guys.
  • A bigger scale will get them cheaper servers and they'll always have spare kit somewhere.

None of these are inherently bad. Those practices makes them very competitive in giving you a machine and bandwidth. That's fine if that's what you need. If you're happy with the services (and level of service) they provide there are few drawbacks.

By buying/renting rackspace (colocation) you can get the last word over a lot of things:

  • you can drive up to the DC (often you'll have direct access) and inspect, reset or ritually curse machines.
  • You can also perform migrations buy pulling disks out of machines, or moving machines to a different datacenter.
  • Very specific setups (tricky routing, loadbalancers, ...) are often only possible with colocation.
  • You can influence temperature by adjusting airflow (or complain and get more flow); but you will have to manage your own power draw.
  • You can get complete control over 'backend' lans by buying your own switches
  • Often you'll have more flexible wan options (dedicated vlan with 3 RSTP portchannels and failover routing to your rack? sure!)
  • Depending on the situation you can get a better deal on bandwidth (in the bigger numbers) or add uplink providers.
  • You're also generally responsible for generating the reset options, hardware maintenance/replacement etc. Including nights, during familiy dinners and on holidays.
  • Meeting the owners/grunts face to face can get you a better understanding and other favors.
  • If you dont have AC in the summer, you can sit in the hallway on a tile blowing cold air up your spine, surfing the net on a high speed ethernet connection pretending to uhhh repair backups
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Some of the things I've seen in the Data Center where we colo, which you couldn't do if you were renting:

  • EFTPOS machines
  • Obsessively neat cables
  • Hard drives hanging out of beige boxes

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