How to Choose the Right Data Center Location
A common refrain among those in the real estate industry is that there are 3 essential considerations when investing in real estate: Location, location, location.
The same is true when deciding where to put your company’s data.
Assuming your company has outgrown your on-premise hardware and you‘re looking to either build or set up your own data center rather than use a hosting provider or colo facility, this article will serve to help you determine the best location for your business.
Even if you’re looking at a hosting provider or colo, some the following advice will still apply to you, so don’t go anywhere yet – you just might learn a little something.
Before we begin, let’s be clear: there is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ data center. You will always have to weigh cost, risk and performance along the way.
If you get stuck at a certain stage or just have general questions about your current data center setup, Shamrock can help. We’ve worked with hundreds of customers to help them maximize efficiencies while minimizing costs, and we’d love to do the same for you!
Natural Disasters and Weather-Related Events
One of the biggest considerations to make in terms of risk is how vulnerable your data center is to natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, blizzards, floods, monsoons, tsunamis, lightning storms and other natural events.
Although data center owners in at-risk areas are generally well-prepared for such events and typically have standard procedures for maintaining active service, certain particularly severe events can overwhelm even the most prepared and lead to a variety of complications such as enforced evacuations and city-wide power shutdowns.
If there is a high level of risk either where your current data center(s) is located or where you’re looking to put a future data center, the topology becomes critical. If your data center goes down, will services failover to another colo facility in the same city, or to one in another state or country? The first situation may be acceptable in tornado alley, for example, but probably won’t be of much use during a Florida hurricane or San Francisco earthquake.
Climate extremes are often less of a “risk issue” and more likely an issue of cost. Data centers in hot, humid climates for example will gobble up electricity lightning-fast via air conditioning provisions, which is one reason why some big players like Google and Facebook are building out data centers in cold regions like Scandinavia and even the Arctic Circle.
It’s important to remember that dry climates almost always better than humid ones since damp data centers will lead to corrosion and short-circuits.
Odds are, no one in their right mind is going to consider building their colo facility in a warzone, but virtually every country and specific region on Earth comes its own blend of geographical and political factors which can affect the risk profile and the cost implications of your data center build.
Negative factors include political and economic instability, poor data security compliance, risk of terrorism and an insecure power supply.
Positive factors, on the other hand, include the opposites of those listed above (obviously), but also things like corporate tax breaks, low-cost electricity, established network infrastructure and a favorable exchange rate.
One of the most important technical and geopolitical factors of all is the cost associated with international transmission and storage of data, which is continuously rising at lightspeed. For example, the recent movement towards greater data sovereignty (and reactions against this) is leading companies like Microsoft to choose to manage non-US data centers via third parties based in the host country. This is something smaller businesses should consider also, as exporting data across geographical borders can be fraught with danger.
Interesting side note about the geopolitical positioning of the Big Three (AWS, Azure, GCP):
There is a clear trend amongst Amazon, Microsoft and Google to build their respective data centers as far from Russian soil as possible, given the unpredictable and downright volatile political situation there. Conversely, they all tend to favor areas where political control is, shall we say, a little bit less ambiguous (the possible exception being Google in Belgium). While it may seem like a relatively small consideration, it’s a fascinating trend and a crystal-clear collective statement from the 3 largest cloud computing platforms on the planet with regards to the far-reaching effects of the geopolitical landscape.
How Close to Your Customers Should You be?
If you’re wondering how proximity to your customers might affect business performance, much will depend on the type of interaction your customers have with your business.
For example, if you are a big media company publishing regular content including high-bandwidth HD video and real-time viewer interactions, closer is most definitely better.
For businesses looking mainly to store data and run email servers, distance is less of a factor than, say, data security and cost, therefore geographically remote data centers become less of a problem.
If you’re unsure where your most loyal visitors are located, this data can be extracted from Google Analytics or whatever other analytics software you’re using. Simply put, setting up a data center in the same city as your customers can be beneficial in terms of both performance and branding.
Maximizing performance while minimizing costs for your data center has never been easier.
More Proximity Considerations
In addition to customer proximity considerations, you should also think about your data center’s proximity to your own business and whether you’re your colo is well-placed enough to attract talented employees.
Some business owners simply like having their data center close by in order to check on things or carry out some hands-on management whenever they want. If you are one of those people, spoiler alert: proximity should probably factor into your decision making.
It’s also vital that the country or region you choose is well-situated to attract the level of network expertise your business needs. If you’re leveraging state-of-the-art technologies, for instance, having confidence in your colo staff’s ability to solve issues locally is huge. Inside the U.S., larger cities obviously have the deepest talent pools, but it’s also a good idea to expand your search to universities and colleges with strong track records of producing top technology talent.
In a global sense, countries with a strong tech reputations include China, Germany, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. The local price of wages will also likely be a big factor in the location you eventually opt for.
Agility vs. Control
Are you a lean, mean, agile company willing to pay more for top talent, connectivity and the latest network technology? Or, are you interested in cutting costs while establishing a long-term data center with a loyal workforce?
In the first case, metropolitan data centers would generally be better as you will have earlier access to new tech developments and be able to recruit talented and hungry IT professionals. Interconnection is also more readily available in urban colo facilities with big network operators, more service provider options and more expansive dark fiber availability. On the negative side, though, urban data centers are expensive and expanding or building out your own data center can be difficult due to limitations of space.
Rural locations are cheaper and tend to give you more control over how you want to run and develop, however there is likely to be fewer carrier access points, maintenance can take an eternity and you will always be just a little behind the times when it comes to best practices and new technology developments.
How Can Shamrock Help You?
There is a lot to consider when deciding on a new home for your data center, but that doesn’t mean it should be hard. We’ll make the process easy by leveraging decades of colo expertise and hundreds of successful projects run for our customers.
Our consultations (and many of our services) are completely free and we guarantee the best price on any product or solution from any provider, anywhere in the world.