By Darren Watkins, MD for VIRTUS Data Centres

It’s no secret that companies in all industries – from healthcare and financial services to retail and everything in between – are amassing large quantities of data and evolving capabilities that need serious computing power. To cope, more and more businesses are deciding to shift servers to data centers outside of their organizations, unlocking benefits such as infrastructure flexibility, better recovery options, improved collaborative systems, workforce mobility, ease of access to public cloud operators and an overall lower total cost.

If the data center challenge is no longer “build vs. buy”, then for many, the questions have become “which partner do I trust?” and “where are their facilities located?” Arguably, location is the key consideration when choosing a data center partner.

There are many important factors to consider when choosing a partner – physical security, disaster recovery, data center uptime guarantees, service levels, ongoing support and maintenance. Companies need to strike a balance between making location an important component of choice and making it the only concern when looking for a data center provider.

So, how do they get it right?

Understanding the Basics

Speed of delivery has a huge effect on customer satisfaction and loyalty; surveys consistently show that internet users are quick to drop sites with slow page load times, as people want access to data instantaneously. As a result, companies should store data on servers located as close to their customers as possible. For example, data stored in the U.S. has to travel across the Atlantic whenever it’s accessed by customers in the UK. That data won’t reach a customer’s device as quickly as it would if the data center were located just outside of London.

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), location is just as important. Though the geolocation of a company’s server is not the primary SEO factor to consider, it’s an important part of the equation. If a business mainly operates in the U.S., it will benefit from better SEO if the data is also stored there.

Many organizations are rightly concerned with meeting the data protection laws that are beginning to crop up all over the world; the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) means that UK companies are required to provide adequate protection of all customer data they collect and store. This includes not transferring data outside of the European Economic Area without adequate protection.

Brexit confuses things further, as no one knows what the UK exiting the European Union will do to the data transit rules. There may be some cases in which a country’s laws require certain types of data to be hosted domestically. There may be other occasions in which hosting data in one country is not appropriate if that data is accessed by users in another country. So, when selecting a data center, companies always need to take data protection laws into account.

There are a number of additional factors to consider. These include local tax structures, access to utilities, availability of suitable networking solutions, local infrastructure, the accessibility of a skilled labor pool, track record and existing customers or reference clients.

All of these things, when combined, make it very clear that the physical location of the data center is important. However, it’s widely discussed that, in cities at least, space is running out. There has been a boom in “mega data centers” to cope with increasing demand, and worldwide data center space totalled a whopping 1.94 billion square feet in 2018. This lack of land availability and increasing costs have seen data centers moving into the suburbs.

However, it isn’t simply a matter of building on the edge of large cities to get the best performance at the lowest cost. A knowledge of the national power infrastructure is needed to future proof any investment; an in-depth understanding of where the fiber operators’ networks exist and their ability to provide an “on-ramp” access solution to public cloud platforms is critical to any enterprise deployment today.

The Flipside

Location must not be the only deciding factor when it comes to choosing a provider. We’ve touched on physical security, disaster recovery and data center uptime guarantees, highlighting that flexibility is equally key. The provider must be able to meet your needs not just now, but for at least several years following selection. So, the savviest firms prioritize the availability of additional space, power and connectivity, and are careful not to hinder their business by choosing a provider that can’t scale over time.

Deployment efficiency is also important. How fast must the infrastructure be up and running? How quickly will a new cross connect or additional rack space be needed in the future? Most businesses want their new space set up as quickly and efficiently as possible, and whilst deployment efficiency can be difficult to quantify in a specific statistic or number, companies must make sure potential vendors clearly communicate timelines.

Selecting a data center or colocation provider is a big decision for any business. After all, mission-critical infrastructure will be housed in these facilities. With this in mind,there are a number of factors to consider before making a selection – many of which are equally as important as physical location.

Is location really everything when it comes to data center selection? It’s not the only vital consideration, but it is an important one. A good choice of location means an optimized infrastructure and application environment that is capable of reaching your entire audience. At the same time, a poor choice means an unstable connection and efficiency problems.