Enterprises today rely on data centers to host their digital applications, workloads and data. Because of the crucial role data centers play and the potential vulnerabilities that can affect a single data center location, duplicating your digital infrastructure across multiple locations is common best practice.
Read on to learn how you can ensure reliability through geo-redundancy and how to choose the best location for your primary and secondary data centers.
How Many Data Centers Should an Enterprise Have?
In a global IT survey that asked companies how many data centers they operated (including privately owned and colocation facilities), answers varied widely, with the most common answer being between 3-5. There is no magic number that fits all situations, but you must consider what makes sense for your company, based on the varying levels of risk tolerance associated with your business applications.
In every case, however, good business practice dictates that the number should be more than one. No matter how robust your primary data center’s design, electrical system, security protocols and mechanical systems, it’s always smart to have at least one secondary location, whether it is one you own or a colocation facility, for redundancy and/or disaster recovery.
Some companies also choose to have multiple data center locations for workload allocation or within a hybrid cloud context that relies on various data center types. For instance, certain applications or data may be hosted in the public cloud while others are hosted on private servers. In addition to redundancy, a hybrid approach can help companies take advantage of the most economical and flexible solution for consuming their IT services.
Choosing a Location for Your Primary Data Center
When it comes to your primary data center, there are some important factors to consider. Some of the top considerations that should make it onto your data center site selection checklist include:
- Proximity to business location: Proximity to your office/headquarters is important for convenient access for those staff responsible for the operation and maintenance of the data center. If your business offices are geographically dispersed, this could be another reason to consider multiple data center locations.
- Cost and availability of real estate: Real estate markets in many traditional data center hubs have become increasingly difficult to enter due to limited remaining space and prohibitively high cost. Consider up-and-coming or relatively untapped markets where real estate is more available and cost-effective.
- Climate: Cooling systems are the largest consumer of electricity on the facilities infrastructure side of the data center. The local climate can potentially reduce the amount of cooling capacity required. Other decision influencers are the possibility of severe weather and natural disasters. Mild climates with low risk for disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes are safer choices.
- Political and economic stability and policies: When expanding to a global view, you must also consider the sociopolitical environment of a location to ensure it is a stable place for your data center. IT systems and the infrastructure that supports them require periodic upgrades and maintenance, and the inability to safely get people in and out of the data center can cause service disruptions to end users. You should also consider what sorts of national and local government incentives might affect your project and ongoing operations.
- Available utilities: Considering the significant power demands of a data center, access to reliable and inexpensive power is very important. If you’re working to make your operations more sustainable, you should also look for a location with access to cleaner renewable energy sources. Access to high-speed fiber is also an important consideration.
All of these data center location considerations are critical, and the best places to build a data center will perform well on all of these metrics.
On-Premise vs. Colocation
You must also determine whether to stick to on-premise (owned) data centers or to take advantage of colocation facilities. On-premise is an option if you have the room on-site and the necessary staff and expertise to operate your own IT equipment. Alternatively, many companies choose colocation to outsource operations and eliminate the need to service and maintain auxiliary systems such as cooling and electrical infrastructure. This approach can also help them reduce costs.
If you choose colocation, in addition to the factors listed above, you also want to consider the facility itself, ensuring you find a colocation partner you trust for security, reliability, affordability, flexibility, and the value-added services you need.
Choosing a Location for Your Secondary Data Center(s)
All the same considerations we looked at for primary data centers also apply when you’re choosing your secondary data center site. It’s imperative, though, that this secondary data center is a distance away from your primary location in order to ensure geo-redundancy.
Choosing a facility down the street from your primary location is a risky strategic move because an issue that affects your primary data center may likewise affect your secondary location(s). For more fail-safe redundancy, it’s critical that your secondary location is not subject to the same vulnerabilities as your primary location.
If there’s a natural disaster or severe weather event that affects your primary data center, you want your second facility to be completely out of the path of this catastrophe. According to IT resiliency provider Recovery Point, a distance of just 15-30 miles from your primary site may be sufficient as long as the risk of experiencing the same natural disasters is low and each site offers redundant, isolated communications and power capabilities.
Colocation is a great option to consider for any secondary location(s) since it allows you to house IT infrastructure a distance away without having to be physically present.
Multiple Data Center Locations for Redundancy and Resiliency
Having multiple data centers is key to business continuity. With multiple data centers, in the event of a disaster, your data, your customer’s data and your mission-critical operations will be protected from dangerous and expensive downtime and losses.
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