The importance of data centre location

Written by Phil Alsop, Editor, DCS Europe Published 2022-08-24 07:58:44

Before the Russia/Ukraine conflict erupted, with the subsequent fallout of skyrocketing energy prices, and before sustainability and the environment turned into the current, very urgent Net Zero quest, there were any number of factors to consider when it came to deciding on data centre location.

Ideally, the data centre needed to be situated somewhere protected from natural disasters. So, no flood plains or hurricane alleys, no likely droughts or blizzards. Once upon a time, avoiding such climate extremes might have been relatively easy. However, thanks to global warming and the associated climate volatility, extreme weather conditions are becoming more frequent right across the world. Yes, it’s still possible to minimise the risk of freak weather events, but it could just be time to accept that, at some stage, they could just happen, so putting in place a business continuity/disaster recovery plan just became a whole lot more important. 

When choosing your colocation provider, do take a view on the location in terms of its vulnerability, or not, to the weather. More importantly, make sure to examine their plans to cope with a natural disaster, so you can rest easy that your business will not close down if the data centre experiences a prolonged outage.

Ease of access was also something to consider. The assumption was that you’d be needing to visit your data centre on a fairly regular basis, therefore you didn’t want to spend too much time, or expense, in doing so. Thanks to automation and remote working technologies, combined with the colocation provider’s own service desk and support services, it’s now perhaps less important to be within easy travelling distance.

Some attention would also be given to the level of resilience built into the data centre. The Uptime Institute’s tiering model, from I-IV, was, and still is, used to a large extent to indicate to customers just how failsafe is a data centre. That’s to say, if power feed A fails, then a data centre can switch to power feed B, and if that fails as well, then is there a power feed C? And such an approach applies equally to the UPS, backup generators and other critical data centre infrastructure. In simple terms, some kind of ‘cost vs. resilience’ sum needs to be done to decide on the level of insurance required.

Connectivity options and speeds was also a major factor in choosing a colocation n partner. If anything, this requirement has only grown in importance as more and more businesses have come to depend more and more on digital services. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that no matter the importance of a whole range of criteria when it comes to choosing data centre location, the number one priority has to be the reliability, speed, flexibility and choice of connectivity options. 

Time is money, so the faster the connectivity, whether local, regional or global, the better. We might only be talking a few milliseconds here or there, but for many organisations these can matter – think how quickly web pages take to load. And then there’s the number of links or hops necessary for any data transaction. Every time you move from one network to another, there’s always the possibility, however remote, of the line going down, not to mention a temporary slowdown.

If connectivity speed is critical, then so is connectivity proximity. The closer the data centre to our own business and as many supply chain partners and customers as possible, the quicker the interactions. Some colocation providers encourage the building of industry-specific communities, to foster this supply chain digital proximity.

Similarly, many providers have built up significant cloud and managed service provider ecosystems within their facilities. This means that you, the customer, can access not just many of the organisations with which you do business within your chosen data centre, but also many of the IT services which you rely on to operate efficiently. And, if your own customers are mainly located in a specific city or region, it makes sense to operate out of a colocation facility nearby.

For example, it’s no accident that so many data centres which serve the financial sector are based in London, one of the world’s major financial centres.

Right now, the build out of colocation data centres to meet the needs of specific industries and/or regions is gaining significant momentum as part of the wider hybrid IT approach. That’s to say, there’s a pretty firm recognition that a mixture of IT and data centre assets (on-premise, colocation, cloud/managed services) is required to provide the optimised digital infrastructure for any particular business. And, when it comes to both cloud and colocation, it could well be that the multi approach holds good – choosing a range of solutions that best meet your business needs, depending on how, where and when you interact with your supply chain and customers.

And, yes, the Russia/Ukraine war and inflated energy prices are a timely reminder of the need to take some time to consider the geopolitical and financial safety of any particular data centre location. This could mean that some of the more ‘exotic’ locations which have seen the recent rise of colocation activity might need to be re-evaluated. And there’s no doubt that fossil fuel prices will accelerate the development of renewable alternatives and give some kind of an advantage to providers already located near to plentiful supplies of renewable energy supplies – at least in the short term.

However, when it comes to choosing a data centre location and a colocation partner, connectivity was, is and will always be the number one consideration. Connectivity and connected communities within a data centre facility, connectivity and connected communities close to the data centre facility and connectivity and connected communities further afield. How well your chosen colocation provider addresses this connectivity imperative will have a major impact on your business.

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