Hosting providers are not made equal. Classic server methods of hosting have now diverged into a mix of alternate data center types, each of which falls under the singular heading of ‘data center’.
This can make finding the right type of data center architecture for your business a tricky proposal – especially if you’re unsure what you’re looking for.
As a potential client, hosting infrastructure is something that affects every facet of your hosting experience, from support to performance, and beyond. This article provides an explanation as to the different types of hosting provider available, with the aim of helping you find the right fit for you and your business.
A quick overview of the data center types:
|Reseller||Colocation||Owned and Operated|
|Direct access to infrastructure||✕||✕||✓|
|Root access to the server||✕||✓||✓|
|Real application optimizations||✕||✓||✓|
Type R: A Reseller Data Center
Resellers are hosting providers that don’t own or manage their data center facilities but re-sell those of another.
This is great when it comes with added incentives such as development assistance or design and marketing consultation. Moreover, reseller solutions often provide some of the security and performance benefits of a larger data center for a fraction of the price.
Reseller hosting falls down when it comes to the level of support providers are able to provide. Resellers are not given direct root access to a server. This means they can’t handle support requests directly and instead have to follow a complex line of communication. This often leads to multiple voices trying to work on a single problem; including, but not limited to:
- The site owner (you)
- The reseller
- The reseller’s support team
- The data center’s support team
- The data center’s infrastructure engineers
Support becomes especially problematic when you find that most agreements between resellers and infrastructure providers don’t cover the reseller’s client: you. In most cases, infrastructure providers are only contractually obligated to help the reseller, not the site owner.
If you host with a reseller, expect longer support times and a lower quality service with a lower price tag.
Type C: A Colocation Data Center
A hosting provider that colocates is one that doesn’t own their hosting facility but does have root access to the server.
Again, a benefit of opting for type C hosting is that most colocation facilities feature top-of-the-line redundancies and excellent facility features for keeping hosted infrastructure secure and reliable – all at a lower cost for you.
A colocation hosting provider is unlikely to have physical, hands-on access despite full root control of the server. Most of the time, trained remote engineers called smart hands provided by the colocation facility, execute support requests that involve physical changes.
A good way to judge how this may affect your hosting experience is to ask how close the colocation facility is to their base of operations and what level of access they have. If you are lucky, you’ll find that your provider is located next door to the colocation facility and have an agreement for direct, instant access. Unfortunately, this is rare and after setting up server racks, many colocation providers have no access.
If they don’t have access, similar support issues can arise.
What Are Smart Hands?
Many colocation providers offer something called ‘smart hands’. These are trained staff members able to provide onsite infrastructure support.
Smart hands can:
- Provide technical support
- Manage physical infrastructure issues
- Reduce downtime
- Proactively keep ahead of any potential issues in the data center
Ask your hosting provider as to whether they have proactive or reactive smart hands. Proactive smart hands should help stop hosting solution outages before an issue arises, while reactive smart hands will only step in after something becomes a problem.
“Smart hands are trained staff members able to provide onsite support for any issues that need fixing.”
Type O: An Owned and Operated Data Center
“Owned and Operated hosting providers offer the best in terms of support and control.“
Owned and Operated hosting is where your hosting provider and data center facility are one and the same. This type offers the best in terms of support and control due to your hosting provider being a direct line to your hosting infrastructure.
This type of data center is also more flexible. They are often able to provide custom managed solutions due to onsite staff and team members having a deeper knowledge of the infrastructure available. This is perfect for larger businesses with specific requirements.
It is also more likely your hosting solution will be properly optimized for your application, as a result of your support team interacting with the hosting infrastructure daily. Checking what features are available and seeing reviews from other clients running the same application or CMS is a good way to judge the true performance of this type of data center.
In the event of a disaster, peace of mind is knowing that your hosting provider or data center knows what to do. This isn’t always certain with reseller and colocation hosting.
If you host with a reseller or provider that colocates, and their infrastructure provider goes down, they have no control over getting that service back online. In many cases, this won’t only affect your solution, it will also affect their internal services; potentially rendering you unable to contact your hosting provider.
Owned and Operated providers can tell you exactly what is happening to your solution at any given time during a disaster and provide a basic outline of how they will manage recovery. Find out more about data center risk and recovery.
Other Data Center Types
Another classification system often used is data center tiers. The tier system is largely based on reliability, with tier one providers having the lowest uptime, and tier 4 providers the highest.