By Nathan Sykes, Finding an Outlet

Data centers are not one-size-fits-all, so companies are increasingly looking to build facilities to custom specifications. These centers, often called build-to-suit data centers, enable firms to ensure they get the exact characteristics they need in a facility.

Building a custom data center, though, is not a simple prospect. You need to consider many critical factors to ensure you get a solution that works for you. Here are some of the options and design aspects you’ll need to consider when building a data center to suit your needs.

Design and Construction Approach

You can take one of several approaches to the design and construction process for data centers.

  • The design-bid-build method is the traditional approach. In this process, the owner works individually with a design team, construction manager and consultants as the project progresses.
  • The design-build approach uses just one team for design, construction and all other aspects throughout the entirety of a project.
  • The premanufactured and prefabricated methods involve creating a modular design using either standard shipping container-sized components or components of a customized size. The facility is manufactured off-site and shipped to the location in multiple pieces.
  • The developer-delivered solution involves working with a developer who specializes in data centers. Because of their expertise, the developer can manage the entire process.


Location is a critical consideration when building data centers because it affects so many other factors of your facility.

When choosing a location for your center, you have to consider the cost of the land and the resources available to you there. For example, you’ll need to understand the availability of power and water as well as the available workforce in the area.

You should also consider all local laws, environmental regulations, building codes and other rules you will have to comply with. Some local governments will also offer tax breaks to companies that build data centers in their area.

You will also need to think about risks associated with the location, especially if you’re considering foreign locations and climates you’re not familiar with. Environmental factors such as temperatures and the likelihood of natural disasters, as well as geopolitical considerations, are significant.

Power Needs

You will also, of course, need to consider the demand your data center will see and the amount of power you’ll need to meet it. Will you be able to rely on power from the grid, or should you consider distributed energy solutions such as rooftop solar panels? In some cases, building your energy source may be more cost-effective.

Think about the likelihood of power failures in a location and how you’ll continue operating in such an event. Power failures may occur because of inadequate infrastructure or power supply, natural disasters, cyberattacks and many other issues. Because of these risks, it’s critical for data center companies to build in redundancy through backup generators and even separate facilities with backup resources.

Speed and Scalability

Another factor to consider is the speed with which you need to get the facility up and running. All the factors mentioned so far can impact the time it takes to finish a new operation. Depending on your business’s needs, speed may or may not be a priority.

You should not only consider the speed to complete the facility initially, but also how easy or difficult it would be to scale the data center in the future. As technology changes and creates growing amounts of data, it’s becoming increasingly vital for data centers to be agile and able to respond to demand changes. Make sure you’re prepared to scale your center, so you don’t get stuck with an inadequate facility somewhere down the road.

Building a data center to suit your needs can be advantageous, since it helps ensure you get the features you need. Just make sure that you prepare for the challenges associated with creating a custom data center solution.


About the Author:

Nathan Sykes writes about business technologies on his blog, Finding an Outlet. To read his latest articles, follow him @nathansykestech.