Information Technology mentor Brad Brown responds to the following question from an user:
I plan on starting up two dot-com companies. I am currently writing a business plan and doing research. I have found lots of information about using a Web-hosting company. However, I am interested in buying my own server so that I can add capacity as the company grows. I am having a difficult time finding information on connecting a server to the Internet.

  • Where can I find additional information on connections to the Internet?
  • What type of connection would I need?
  • Would you recommend using a host or purchasing my own server?

Brad Brown's response: When it comes to connecting a server to the Internet, most Internet service providers (ISPs) offer what is called colocation. In this arrangement, a server that's owned by you is physically located on the site of the ISP, which handles Internet connectivity and security, among other services. To find firms that do what you're looking for, just search for the term "colocation" in any search engine, such as Google). Some firms, such as Exodus, Inflow, and Verio, to name a few, specialize in colocation.

When colocating, no "connection type" is really needed. Your server will be connected on the colocation firm's backbone. You'll want to know how much bandwidth the colocator can handle; good firms should be able to handle considerably more bandwidth than you are ever likely to pass them. Some firms charge based on the bandwidth you use, while others charge for a fixed amount, and still others offer both pricing models. You'll want to investigate pricing models and options.

Costs are different for each vendor, but you can shop around very easily. Keep in mind that high-end colocation shops will charge more, but they also provide considerable benefits. Take time to visit their premises. You'll find that the professional facilities will remind you of the Mission Impossible control room that Tom Cruise broke into. Security (from locked cabinets to firewalls) is well controlled, and the facilities have temperature sensors, multiple Internet access points, multihoming capabilities (redundant servers), integrated fans, raised floors, monitoring facilities (a network operations center to oversee your application's performance, uptime, etc.), and backup and recovery management. Colocation firms also offer a number of supplemental services to help as you grow.

If you're going to grow into a quite large firm, it will at some point be more cost-effective to have all the resources in-house to keep everything running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Is it expensive to be down? Absolutely, so 24 x 7 support is key. Keep in mind that operating system, database, application server, and Web server specialists are very expensive.

Can you do all of this yourself? Can you do it less expensively than companies that have the economy of scale of an ISP or colocation firm? It all depends on how big you are going to get and how quickly you can hire the resources you need. But initially, it's likely to be least expensive to choose the professionals that do this for a living.