FAQ Friday: What makes an ideal location for a secondary data center?

By Brian Schwartz, TierPoint Content & Social Media Marketing Manager

Welcome to FAQ Friday, a new regular feature aimed at chronicling topics and stories that are important to our customers and partners. In our everyday conversations, many of the same questions come up regularly. We will address them here as a way to share our experiences and begin a dialogue with you about pressing data infrastructure management and protection issues. Your comments matter. Issues that pop up frequently in FAQ Friday combined with your feedback will be a primary basis for us to develop in-depth content that provides more detailed analysis and advice.

Joe Conlin
Meet Joe Conlin. He is a TierPoint systems engineer and business continuity expert based in our Metro NYC data center, just outside of Westchester, NY. He consults with financial services, health care and other clients. I asked him what is his FAQ of the Week.

“We receive a great many questions about what makes an ideal location for a secondary data center,” Conlin replied. “Particularly in financial services, customers are demanding high performance that includes low latency networks and high-availability because they know down time can cost millions of dollars or more.

The data center location decision comes down to a blend of factors, one of which is cost. You may have the most cost-effective data center cooling and power in Alaska, but if your business relies on low latency transactions within the northeast US then what value does that secondary site actually offer to the business? Or vice versa, data centers in Manhattan are super close to the market but it’s so expensive that it doesn’t make business sense to build out there unless the lower latency delivers a satisfactory return on investment.  I have also seen scenarios where data centers are selected for tax reasons.”

Conlin said he and his team spend a lot of time educating customers about some of the less obvious criteria with respect to selecting a data center location. “Naturally, proximity to your main production site is important. So is access to a network interconnection that can deliver microsecond or better latency. But what about flood zones and fault lines? Is your desired location in an area prone to hurricanes and other natural disasters? If you run data architecture for your business, you have to be concerned with weather, transportation logistics and a lot of other issues that do not have much to do with bits and bytes.”

I asked Conlin what is the factor customers overlook the most when selecting a data center location. “We see a number of instances where businesses fail to plan where they are going to put their employees in the time of a disaster. If a storm knocks power out at their main site, a secondary site might kick in, but who is going to manage and monitor activity? You need to consider evacuation routes and availability of physical locations where employees can get online and work.”

Additional Viewpoint
Rajan Battish published an article in Area Development that discusses the considerations that need to go into selecting a data center location. He advocates evaluating the likelihood of natural disasters as part of site selection in addition to factors such as access to highways, airports and railroads.

He acknowledges that there are so many factors to evaluate, it is virtually impossible to satisfy all of them. Each organization will have to prioritize based on a total cost of ownership study that leads to an “optimal site.”

Battish says that you really have to make careful, thoughtful decisions about your site selections because “the risk associated with a site selected without thorough due diligence can be great. The proper site selection can have a long-term positive or negative impact on the project. Therefore, it is essential that the site is scalable and incorporates the agility needed for the next-generation data center.”

So what do you think? Have you completed a data center build out? Aside from cost, what were the key factors that you used to finalize your site location? Leave a comment and join the conversation. Connect with Brian.

Hear from Joe for more insights and advice