How to Determine How Much Colocation Data Center Space You Need


Thinking about a hardware refresh and a new approach to your network using a colocation data center? Then one of the first questions that come to mind is how much colocation data center space you need.

Ideally, you should ask this question before you start investing in new hardware and definitely before you start throwing away old equipment. Unlike on-premise hosting, colocation comes with better connectivity, redundancy, security, and more. So it’s a top option companies should consider for storing digital assets and backups. 

However, when you opt for colocation, it’s ideal to know what type of assets you’ll be hosting in the center beforehand. Of course, you can always upgrade and downgrade as needed. Colocation is scalable and truly flexible to adapt to your needs. 

Depending on the colocation provider you choose, you will have a number of different options, space configurations, and additional options to choose from. Some colocation providers require a minimum space to be rented (for instance, a full rack or 5kW), while others can host in smaller increments.

If you’re not sure how to get started on evaluating your colocation data center space needs, read on. We will shed some light on the things to consider.

Data Center Rack Space

In a data center, physical space is measured in racks or rack/cabinet space, commonly referred to as “U.” In this context, U is a measurement unit typically applied to things like disk drivers, equipment racks, servers, and other types of equipment commonly found in a data center. A standard rack is 19 inches, while one U equals 1.75 inches. The same U can be used to describe the height of the cabinets in a colocation data center.

In colocation lingo, U is usually preceded by a number: 2U, 3U, 5U, and so on. This measures the overall height of the mounted servers or racked servers. Manufacturers rely on this standard measurement to determine how many RUs the equipment needs.

Colocation data centers use standard rack sizes to measure how much equipment they can host. For instance:

  • A quarter rack can hold approximately 10U. This is typically enough for small companies, with small to medium amounts of data. 1U is usually enough for a very small startup, so the remaining 9U will be enough for an established company with more data to handle.
  • A half rack can hold approximately 20U. The half-rack is the ideal choice for small to midsize companies, with more data.
  • A full rack can hold approximately 40U. Large companies, with large databases, can use this option to ensure that they are ready for whatever happens, and no matter how much the amount of data they use grows in the near future. A full rack offers you enough space and flexibility for…pretty much anything. 

Please keep in mind that these are approximate measures. Some data centers in the US (and outside of it) offer tall colocation cabinets that can support up to 48U.

Data Center Power Usage

As servers and equipment continue to get smaller in size, many data centers, including HTDC, have moved to allocating resources by power usage. With this model, you buy the power usage (in kilowatts, kW) per month (or quarter or year). Your equipment can use up to that amount of power. 

What happens if you go over your power limit some months? Will your equipment stop working? At HTDC, no, we’ll never shut off your connectivity for going over. That’s one of the great things about data center storage: it’s scalable. In the case of overages, especially ongoing overages, we simply renegotiate pricing. 

Some data centers charge power usage through metering, which means you pay for what you use. This model, similar to with the cloud, leads to unpredictable costs. At HTDC, we price similarly to the rack space concept—in blocks. We use 5kW and 2kW increments, so you can purchase any combination from 2kW up in those blocks. 

This model is most cost-effective for customers, reflects how data centers incur costs, and allows full scalability and flexibility. 

Determining Your Colocation Data Center Requirements

Now that you have the basics of how data centers allocate space and power, you are on the right track to find the ideal solution for you. There are no set formulas here or one-size-fits-all solutions, so we recommend you discuss this both with your internal IT department and with your colocation provider.

As a rule of thumb, the more space you buy, the lower the cost per unit will be—much like in any other industry. Scalability is always an option, so you can move up and down as needed. 

For determining your needs in both space- and power-based models, you can rely on information from your hardware provider. When you look at the servers and hardware you plan to put in the data center, you can view size specs for rack space and power usage estimates for each piece of equipment. You can take this information to your colocation partner and negotiate exactly what you need. 

Not Sure Where to Start? The Heartland Technology Data Center Can Help!

At the Heartland Technology Data Center, we take great pride in offering customized solutions for every company, regardless of their size. We don’t stick a rigid plan on your business and call it a day.

Whether you need 300kW or 2kW, we are here to help you make the most out of your colocation space. Our experts can always consult and guide you in choosing the best option for you, knowing you have full flexibility to adjust as needed. 

Come tour our Iowa data center and let’s talk more about your colocation data center space needs.