Colocation vs Managed Hosting
Perhaps you registered a domain name, and the registrar offered to host your website for a small fee? Or maybe you signed up with a third-party hosting company, either one of the 'free website hosting' vendors or one that charges a fee, and received an 'account' with which you could create or upload your website content, set up email boxes, and so on? In either case, what you received was a Managed Hosting account. Simply put, this means that the hosting provider 'managed' everything that was required to give you an online presence for your website - the hardware (web server and networking equipment), software (web server and email software, site creation software), the internet backbone connection, maintenance, upgrades, backups, and so on. Once signed up, all you had to do was create your web pages, set up your email boxes, and order any other additional services you wanted.
Incidentally, the above scenario described a typical shared hosting account - which just means that many customers such as yourself shared space and resources on a single server, which has been designed to host multiple accounts simultaneously. An alternative to this is a dedicated hosting account, often referred to as a dedicated server. As with shared hosting, your provider owns and manages the hardware, and takes care of all the infrastructure details (networking and internet connectivity), backups and maintenance. But in this case, the entire server is dedicated for just your use. Typically, the software installed on the server will allow you to host more than one website, and often you are allowed some control over how the server itself functions, which is NOT the case with shared accounts. There are variations in between shared and dedicated hostings - offerings called 'virtual dedicated' and 'reseller shared' and so on, but suffice to say that they are all different forms of Managed Hosting.
Colocation is a very different animal. With colocation, you purchase and own both the hardware (server) and software that will host your web presence, AND you are responsible for properly setting up and configuring both. Typically these are not sold to you by the colocation provider, nor do they dictate what you can or cannot buy - you are free to choose the combination that best fits your needs. Once ready, you install your machine(s) at the colocation provider's data center (they will usually assist with this). They provide you with space in a data cabinet in their facility, power for your equipment, IP addresses for your use, and an uplink port for you to connect your equipment to their network, which leads to the internet. The better facilities are staffed 24/7, and will offer some basic support on request, but you are responsible for the upkeep of your equipment, and will be allowed physical access whenever you need it. The colocation provider is responsible for the security and upkeep of the facility, so that the space, power and bandwidth that they provide you are not compromised.
As you can see, Colocation is much more of a hands-on, do-it-yourself solution, as opposed to Managed Hosting. It's called 'colocation' because you act like you own managed host, co-locating your equipment in a data center, instead of, say, trying to host it yourself from your home or office internet connection (not recommended if you want good throughput and stability!).
So now you know what Colocation is, and how it differs from Managed Hosting. So why would you choose Colocation - or not?