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Data center colocation services can help your customers stay secure

The demand for data center colocation services is on the rise, with the industry estimating an increase of 13.35% in 2022. Colocation services are often less expensive than maintaining an on-site data center, allowing you to redirect resources to more exciting and lucrative technology initiatives. However, remote infrastructure can be more challenging to monitor, secure, and troubleshoot. Plus, if you’re not careful, usage-based pricing could cause your budget to spiral out of control. Here’s what to know about the potential challenges and the best practices to implement to avoid common pitfalls.

Data center colocation services: Challenges and solutions

Challenge 1: Visibility

One way that data center colocation services differ from on-premises data centers is that there is often less physical access to and visibility over the infrastructure. Administrators can’t pop in every day to check environmental conditions like temperature and humidity or to verify that nobody has opened the cage without permission or physically tampered with the equipment. This can make it challenging to maintain optimal conditions to extend the life of your equipment and prevent catastrophic failure.

In addition, colocation facilities also follow the shared responsibility model, which means they’re responsible for a certain portion of security, and you’re responsible for the rest. The facility usually has security cameras, electronic door locks, and other security measures in place, but you generally won’t have access to the videos or logs as a customer. That means you need to ensure that you make up the difference with comprehensive monitoring solutions so there are no gaps in your coverage.

Solution 1: Environmental and infrastructure monitoring

Environmental monitoring sensors collect data on conditions in the data center, providing administrators with a virtual presence in remote colocation facilities. The sensors connect to the I/O ports of console servers and other infrastructure management systems, allowing administrators to monitor things like temperature, humidity, and air quality. Often, these systems use pre-set baselines and will trigger automatic alerts when conditions exceed safe levels, making it easier to efficiently monitor remote infrastructure.

Some environmental monitoring systems also include physical tampering sensors, which will alert administrators if someone opens the door to your cage or comes in close proximity to your equipment without prior authorization. This helps to supplement the physical security provided by colocation services and gives you more control over your remote infrastructure.

Challenge 2: Compliance with data privacy regulations

When the infrastructure used to store and process data is no longer managed on-site by in-house staff, it gets much more difficult to stay compliant with strict data privacy regulations. For example, if your organization processes HIPAA data, you need to know exactly who has access to that data, what specific data they access, and why they need access. That also includes access to the infrastructure that stores and processes the data.

If that infrastructure is housed and managed by a third party, as is the case with data center colocation, you need stricter privacy and security controls to maintain compliance.

Solution 2: Zero trust security

The zero trust security methodology is based on the principle of “never trust, always verify.” In the zero trust model, you microsegment your network to facilitate the creation of highly precise security policies and controls. This allows you to control exactly who has access to which resources in your colocation facility.

In addition, the zero trust methodology recommends identity and access management (IAM) solutions with two-factor authentication (2FA) and user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA). These solutions force an account to re-verify its identity and re-establish trust before it can move to different microsegments and access other resources. This both aids in data privacy compliance and limits the lateral movement of compromised accounts, improving the overall security of your remote infrastructure.

Challenge 3: Around-the-clock access to remote infrastructure

Colocation data center infrastructure is managed remotely over the WAN, which requires an internet connection. When administrators manage that infrastructure on the same production network used for data traffic, it’s known as in-band management.

The issue with in-band management is that it relies on the same LAN architecture that’s used in production. That means a misconfiguration or hardware failure that takes the LAN offline will also cut off all management access, making remote troubleshooting impossible. The same issue occurs if there’s a WAN failure or ISP outage.

If administrators can’t troubleshoot and recover the infrastructure remotely, you will need to dispatch a truck roll, which is both expensive and time-consuming. And, the longer that infrastructure is offline, the higher your downtime costs, including lost business and reputation damage.

Solution 3: Out-of-band (OOB) management

Out-of-band (OOB) management uses serial consoles with secondary WAN interfaces to provide an alternative path to remote infrastructure. OOB serial consoles create a dedicated management network that’s separate from the production LAN. This gives you the ability to perform resource-intensive orchestration workflows without negatively impacting production performance.

OOB management also allows administrators to remotely troubleshoot device failures, LAN misconfigurations, and other sources of outages. This reduces your reliance on truck rolls and helps you recover from outages quicker, so you can lower your costs and protect your reputation.

Challenge 4: Colocation bills

The cost of data center colocation services is generally dependent on your power and bandwidth usage as well as the amount of space your equipment takes up. If not managed properly, usage-based pricing can cause your monthly bill to vary dramatically, wreaking havoc on your budget. Many factors lead to usage spikes, such as sudden surges in demand and inefficient power distribution.

Plus, as your business grows and your technology requirements evolve, you may need to scale up the number of devices in your rack. And as you add more computing, storage, and server resources, you also need more management devices (e.g., serial consoles), all of which take up valuable real estate in the data center.

Solution 4: DCIM orchestration, SDN, and all-in-one devices

This particular challenge has multiple solutions, any or all of which can help keep costs in check while enabling easier scaling.

Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solutions provide a centralized platform from which to monitor and control remote infrastructure. DCIM tools give administrators the ability to monitor power flows and redistribute loads on demand for more efficient power usage. Modern DCIM orchestration solutions also include automation capabilities for optimal power load balancing.

Software-defined networking (SDN) creates a virtual overlay network, dedicated to management and orchestration, that sits on top of the network architecture. This facilitates the use of sophisticated network automation workflows such as intelligent routing, which can automatically redirect traffic to alternative resources when the bandwidth load on your colocation infrastructure is too high. SDN can help you stay within bandwidth usage thresholds at your colocation data center(s), so you can use your services more cost-effectively.

Finally, all-in-one networking devices can help you reduce the number of boxes in your rack, so you use less square footage in the data center. For example, a device like the Nodegrid Serial Console Plus provides out-of-band management access, routing, switching, and network failover in a single box. Plus, it includes 96 managed serial ports in a single 1U rack-mount form factor, reducing the number of management devices required to control large-scale data center deployments.

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