Does it matter where my data centre is physically located?

Written by Anthony Carter, Managing Director, Connotations (Carman Online Publishing Ltd.) Published 2017-10-17 08:14:52

Choosing a data centre to host company data is no small undertaking – at least it shouldn’t be. Where data is stored is very important for a number of reasons. Suffice to say that choosing a host provider based on price alone is not a wise idea. Even worse is the idea of choosing a hosting provider without knowing where servers are physically located.

The place to start discussing why data centre location is so important is to look at the data itself. Data is digital information stored on computer servers and carried across networks when accessed. Though data itself is not physically tangible, the infrastructure and power needed to store and transfer it are. As such, how data is stored and accessed is affected by local infrastructure, power resources, and geographic location.

Consider the prospect of providing water to every resident of London. How that water is stored and transferred to residents is affected by everything from infrastructure to physical location. Data storage and transfer are similar.

Data Speeds and Latency

Where a data centre is physically located plays a very important role in data speeds and latency. Let's say you own a UK company that services customers mainly in central and south England. Storing your data on servers located in the US means that the data has to travel clear across the Atlantic whenever it's accessed by your customers. That data will not reach a customer's device as quickly as it would if your data centre were located just outside of London.

In fact, annual surveys consistently show that internet users are quick to drop sites with slow page load times. People want access to data instantaneously. They don’t want to wait for data to travel across the ocean.

SEO Benefits

Believe it or not, search engine ranking is partially tied to the physical location of data. Though the geo-IP location of a company's server is not the most important SEO factor to consider, it is still part of the equation. It's best to keep data as close to home as possible unless a company's primary customer base is located abroad. If you do business mainly in the UK, you will benefit from an SEO standpoint by making sure your data is stored here.

Data Protection Laws

A third thing to consider are the data protection laws that are beginning to crop up all over Europe. Thanks to the Data Protection Act, UK companies are now required to provide adequate protection to all customer data they collect and store. This includes not transferring data outside of the European Economic Area without adequate protection.

There may be some cases in which a country's laws require that certain kinds of data be hosted domestically. There may be other occasions in which hosting data in one country is not appropriate if that data is accessed by users in another country. Companies always need to take data protection laws into account.

Government Access to Data

One last thing to think about is government access to stored data. A UK company collecting and storing data that is especially sensitive – data that they do not want government looking into – would be very unwise to host that data in the US. Across the Pond, the US government has a lot more access to data than just about anywhere in Europe. Data centre pricing may be less expensive in the States, but it can also be riskier as well.

There are a number of additional factors to consider that are less important. These include local tax structures, access to utilities, network activity, local infrastructure, and the accessibility of a skilled labour pool. All these things combined make it very clear that the physical location of your data centre is important.

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