When you’re selecting a data center provider to house your applications and data, you’ll need to decide where you want that data center to be located. In this post, we’ll review a few important factors and considerations many organizations contemplate when making a site selection for their data center.
A data center location near your IT team
Business leaders often prefer a site close to the home office or wherever their existing IT team sits. The logic makes sense. They want to be able to keep an eye on things and, if using a third-party provider, to be able to meet with their vendor’s representatives face-to-face as needed.
However, choosing a data center in the same neighborhood, city, or even region of the country can impact unplanned downtime, as an event such as a power grid outage from a natural disaster can easily affect a large swath of a region. Almost a third (31%) of all businesses surveyed by the Uptime Institute experienced downtime or a severe degradation in service in 2018.
For outages that affected the entire data center, these businesses were down for an average of 130 minutes. Since that survey and according to Uptime Institute’s 2020 findings, those IT infrastructure outages have grown to be even longer. The cost of even an hour of downtime can be tremendous for today’s technology and data-dependent businesses.
A data center in another region
To minimize unplanned downtime, some experts recommend housing business-critical workloads in a data center in a separate geography, preferably one that is less prone to disaster.
While that’s sound advice to some extent, there is, unfortunately, no area of the country that is disaster-free. The Midwest is often seen as a preferred location, but while it may not have California’s wildfires or the Gulf and East Coasts’ hurricanes, it still has its disasters (like flooding, tornados, and thunderstorms). Roughly 10,000 severe thunderstorms with damaging winds hit the Central US every year, and lightning strikes are a major cause of power outages.
It can seem to be a no-win situation. Choose a data center location close to home and you run the risk of your entire operation going down should you be hit with a regional disaster. On the other hand, choosing a data center located in another city or region requires a great deal of trust. You’re putting your data and applications in the hands of someone you can’t look in the eye on a daily basis.
Third-party data center operators and cloud providers offer many benefits when compared to on-premises data center infrastructure, such as:
- Manage all real estate-related operations, like power and cooling systems
- Manage and streamline complex operating costs
- Offer colocation facilities
- Increased data center infrastructure resilience and an extra layer of protection against disasters
- Improved latency and performance due to edge data center benefits
- Interconnected footprint throughout the United States. This brings redundancy benefits.
- 24/7/365 physical security
- Move costs from Capital expenses (CapEx) into Operational expenses (OpEx)
- More network connectivity options
- Access to additional managed services, like security products, managed cloud services, remote hands support, and disaster recovery solutions
A data center closer to end-users
There are also benefits of having your data center closer to your end-users. Dominic Romeo, Senior Product Manager at TierPoint, says, “I almost always advise clients to choose a data center as close to their end-users as possible even if that means they have to spread workloads across data centers. Shorter distances and less traffic can have a dramatic effect on latency, especially for applications and data using cloud services.
For example, if I put my data center in New York, my New York users are going to be happy, but my Denver users are going to hate me. This has nothing to do with the server. It’s just that physical distance from the servers to the user. Physical distance is the number one contributor to latency, and latency is at least a primary contributor to what the average user thinks of as ‘performance.’
“When you’re inside a 50-mile radius, latencies drop. The time it takes for the end-user to send a command to the server (and for the server to come back with a response) are in the neighborhood of single-digit milliseconds versus double- or triple-digit milliseconds of round-trip time. That can have a tremendous impact on productivity and the customer experience.”
Have a disaster recovery plan no matter where your data center is located
According to Romeo, a solid disaster recovery plan is essential no matter where you choose to house your workloads. He advises carefully considering your recovery objectives for each workload and then working with a managed service provider to determine the best strategy for meeting these objectives.
As for the trust factor, Romeo agrees that it can be a scary proposition to move your data and applications outside of your own data center. “Choosing a data center provider to house the lifeblood of your business is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make, but when you take the time to do the proper due diligence, it can also be one of the best.”
More on TierPoint data centers
At TierPoint, we have a national, geographically diversified data center footprint and the expertise to help you determine the best location for your business data and applications. Learn more about our network of data centers and schedule a data center tour today.
Originally published in October 2018, this post was updated on April 7, 2021, to reflect changes in stats and to add more information about data center providers.