Selecting the Best Location for a Colocation Provider

As one of the more important sections in this article series, examining the requirements for the location is vital to the selection of a good colocation data center. Making decisions based on distance alone is no longer enough — especially when choosing such an important part of an organization’s infrastructure. Over the past few years, more variables have entered into the decision making process. This the second article in a series on Data Center Colocation Selection, and will analyze these variables and suggest where IT managers and administrators should focus their attention in deciding the right location and facility for their IT environment.

When selecting a location for your colocation data center, an important planning criteria will be addressing your IT staff including application developers, data base administrators, and your CIO — not just the data center team. In some cases, you’ll want to consider staff response time when choosing a location.

The Physical Location and the IT Staff

  • Local IT support. Many times organizations will select a data center without actually considering the proximity to what is known as a “Response Team.” Uptime within a data center infrastructure is always important so the proximity of the response team is very important. Also important is access to the facility. For example, your staff may be near the facility, but if there is only one access road your systems could be at risk. Depending on the contract, some organizations choose to manage their own hardware and IT workloads within their colocation environment. This support structure means that there has to be reliable IT staff available within ‘X’ miles to provide immediate support.
  • Outsourced (“Remote Hands”) IT support. In some situations, many colocation data centers offer a “remote hands” service, where the provider maintains a staff of trained IT technicians who are available for maintenance items and operational support. While most colocation customers will still want to maintain an on-site staff member or two, using these services evens the playing field concerning the location factor in the colocation decision process.
  • Application developers and data base administrators. In today’s IT-centric companies, the application is the business. And as data becomes mission critical, DBAs (data base administrators) are joining the front line of IT operations. At times these professionals will need access to the cage and overall they will need secured, remote access to the systems.
  • CIOs and the C-suite. In some cases, data centers are becoming the “factories” of .com businesses and service organizations. Expect that the C-suite, not just the CIO, will want to conduct site
    visits and have planning meetings on-site at the data center.

Design, Build and Operate

Some data center colocation companies are operators only. They outsource the design and build phases of the facility. Look for colo providers that design, build, and operate their own facilities. This combination of skills and resources can reduce overall costs by avoiding 3rd party markups and improve availability by knowing how each part of the facility works.

Weather Patterns

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the total damage due to severe weather in 2011 climbed to $1 billion over the course of 12-14 major events. (Editor’s note: Cost of last week’s Hurricane Sandy could exceed $20 billion after the Atlantic storm slammed into the Eastern United States, flooding and damaging large area in a major metropolitan region.) Many times a data center will have everything that a potential buyer may require — but there is a failure to analyze the weather patterns of a specific region. To detail the importance of researching a location with the appropriate climate (Please download the Data Center Knowlege Guide to Colocation Selection and review the severe weather images on page 4).

In selecting the right data center, an important decision variable will be the weather of a given region. Even while staying in-state, just a few miles can make all the difference. The decision around weather is always difficult
because weather can be unpredictable — but it can still be measured. Plan around the following:

  • Rain fall and precipitation amounts
  • Average highs/lows
  • Wind gusts and average wind speed
  • Flooding
  • Major temperature variances

Examining averages and conducting regional weather research will help in the decision making process. Never focus on just one element; it’s important to evaluate weather patterns as a whole since various elements can affect a data center differently. For example, in making a decision, a region with slightly warmer than desired temperatures may be desired over one that is more prone to heavy winds or flooding.

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About the Author

Bill Kleyman is a veteran, enthusiastic technologist with experience in data center design, management and deployment. His architecture work includes virtualization and cloud deployments as well as business network design and implementation. Currently, Bill works as the Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at MTM Technologies, a Stamford, CT based consulting firm.

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  1. "Remember, even a small seismic event can have serious repercussions on a live data center." Conversely, some quite large seismic events can have little or no impact on datacenter operations - ie: the 7.0 Nisqually Earthquake between Tacoma & Olympia, Washington which didn't cause any facility in the Pacific Northwest so much as a dropped packet. I've always thought that seismic fears are overblown, and the simple risk of severe weather (thunderstorms, and severe snowstorms) which has a far greater impact on local power delivery, are under appreciated in the colocation site selection process. Humans fear the spectacular (airliner crashes, earthquakes, terror attacks, etc.) because of their visceral nature - far more than the mundane (car crashes, thunderstorms, ladder falls, etc) even though death, injury, and in our case outages, are statistically far more likely from the mundane.

  2. @Chuck - Absolutely great feedback! If you get the chance, check out the official Colocation Selection Whitepaper. Aside from seismic activity - I cover weather patterns, grid infrastructure, and so on. But you're right, seismic activity isn't the end-all in the data center selection process.

  3. Great points made in this post. Along with road accessibility, I would also suggest to look for a data center with ample parking. Some downtown data centers are notorious for bad parking options. Some downtown data centers are located in bad parts of town as well. It can get really scary trying to get to your vehicle at night time. We have seen more and more data centers address this issue as of late - some now even offer parking inside the complex. That is a nice benefit in wet, colder and snowy climates!