What You Need to Consider When Choosing a Data Center Location
By: Blair Felter on September 5, 2018
With more than 1700 colocation data centers spread across the United States, selecting the right colocation partner can be a daunting challenge for organizations both large and small. The initial instinct may often be to choose a local facility that can be easily accessed, especially for companies transitioning from a private data center. While this makes sense for some companies, it’s merely one of many factors that need to be taken into consideration.
Here are a few questions colocation customers should ask when they’re selecting an ideal data center partner:
1: Is the Facility Vulnerable to Natural Disasters?
As many companies in New York City found out the hard way during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, having a data center in a vulnerable area can have catastrophic consequences. From hurricanes to wildfires to earthquakes, natural disasters loom as a threat to data centers in most parts of the world. While the initial inclination may be to choose a data center in less vulnerable regions, this may not always be possible.
In the first place, data centers tend to be located near populated areas that are vulnerable to at least one threat. Finding a data center that’s “safe" from a potential natural disaster may well likely mean sacrificing advantages in terms of the facility’s capacities. It may not have sufficient power infrastructure, be located too far from viable markets, or lack the connectivity options many businesses expect. In the second place, data centers that don’t face environmental risks on a regular basis may be less prepared for any type of disaster or failure.
Data centers in vulnerable regions are typically designed from the ground up with these risks in mind. California facilities, for instance, are built to the very latest standards in earthquake protection, including server racks designed to withstand substantial shocks.
When selecting a data center in a potentially vulnerable region, companies need to review the facility’s disaster plans to make sure they’ve covered every eventuality. This goes beyond just natural disasters, however. A facility located in a hot, humid region also faces different day to day operational challenges than a facility in a drier, colder region. Wherever the data center is located, it should be able to demonstrate the steps it has taken to operate at peak efficiency regardless of climate or natural disaster.
2: How Close is the Data Center to End Users?
For companies delivering content or software services to customers, selecting the right location can be the difference between success and failure. In today’s world of near instantaneous communication, it’s easy to forget that distance still matters. High-end fiber optic cables can transmit data at about 2/3 the speed of light, but that’s still enough to create substantial lag over long distances. For streaming video content, in particular, slowdowns due to latency can be quite damaging because viewers begin to abandon buffering video after only two seconds of delay.
As Internet of Things (IoT) devices become more widespread, companies can’t afford to build their edge computing architectures around distant data centers. Even though many of these devices do most of their processing locally, some require much more computing power for analysis and data reporting. Autonomous vehicles, for example, need to coordinate a vast array of data gathered from other devices over a local area. Given the latency associated with data traveling long distances, centralized data centers located far away are simply not sufficient.
In both of these cases, colocating servers with a data center near the intended end users can greatly improve speed and overall performance. For companies providing services to multiple markets, having local data centers in high demand areas can help take the strain off their networks. With colocation facilities in place to cache content for these markets, valuable bandwidth can be freed up to provide better service to users in other network regions.
3: Is the Local Power Grid Reliable?
While data centers have made remarkable strides in energy efficiency over the last decade, they still require a great deal of power to operate. After all, it’s not just the servers and computing infrastructure that needs to be maintained, there’s air handlers and cooling systems, lighting, backup generators, fire suppression systems, and a variety of security and alarm systems.
Since any potential power outage could lead to expensive losses for data center clients, it’s imperative that the local electrical grid infrastructure serving the facility is both efficient and reliable. Data centers located in far flung regions with limited power availability may offer advantages in terms of security and protection from natural disasters, but may be more vulnerable to power outages. When looking at a data center in areas with older power grids that are susceptible to frequent outages, companies need to make sure that the facility has extensive backup power capabilities that allow it to maintain uptime.
4: Does the Facility Have Access to Qualified Personnel?
Although data centers are increasingly turning to automation, they still depend upon knowledgeable and experienced personnel to keep running at peak efficiency. When something goes wrong at a colocation facility, companies want to know that skilled IT technicians will be on site to troubleshoot the problem and ensure that key services don’t go offline.
Data centers located in good labor markets are more likely to have a steady supply of experienced professionals to staff their service departments. For colocation providers that offer 24/7 on site support to their customers, being able to hire the very best IT personnel is a significant value add. Facilities based in major tech markets with research universities are more likely to implement the very latest in IT management practices, which can provide a significant advantage to their clients.
Selecting the right location for a data center is a more complex challenge than simply picking the closest colocation provider. Companies must carefully weigh costs and benefits of different locations and ask tough questions to make sure that they’re selecting a colocation partner that is both suited to their needs and aware of potential geographic difficulties. With a little research, however, it’s possible to find an optimal data center solution that will provide peace of mind for years to come.
About Blair Felter
As the Marketing Director at vXchnge, Blair is responsible for managing every aspect of the growth marketing objective and inbound strategy to grow the brand. Her passion is to find the topics that generate the most conversations.