How to Choose a Data Center: 7 Things to Consider

Did you know there are more than 3 million data centers in the United States alone? 

Many of those data centers belong to one company alone. Microsoft and US Bank, for example, have data centers they use for internal purposes only. But many of those data centers are available to use for your colocation needs.​With so many options, it can be hard to pick the best data center for you.

And, like a suit, nothing’s more frustrating than a bad fit. This article will discuss some of the considerations to make when choosing a data center. After reading, we hope you’ll be able to make a more informed decision.

​Let’s get started.

1. Location Matters

Location, location, location.  

Whether you’re buying a home or going on vacation, the location you choose can significantly alter the experience. It can also determine if you get a sunburn or not. 

The same is true for data centers (minus the sunburn part). The location of the data center can make a big difference in whether your data center meets your needs or not.

For starters, how far your data center is from your business is critical. Generally, a closer data center is better. However, close is relative. Data centers use fiber cables, which provide reliable speeds up to 250 miles without any latency. And, even past that distance, many users will hardly notice the difference for some time. 

When we’re talking about location, safety is more important than speed. Safety first, right?

Your data center’s location can determine if your data stays safe or experiences downtime. Despite backups and redundancy, the weather can be a serious risk to your data and connectivity. Data centers in flood plains, tornado valleys, and hurricane-prone locations should generally be a no-go for your team.  

Of course, if your business is in one of those locations, you could use a local data center as your primary storage location. But make sure to have a colocation site in case a natural disaster takes something out. (You know, come to think of it, a really safe location for a data center is in Knoxville, TN

2. Storage Flexibility

Your business is going to change over time. Most companies grow, on average, by 15 to 45 percent each year.  

A data center with low scalability or flexibility isn’t going to cut it. If your business doubles in size, you might need double the storage. You want to make sure your data center allows you to buy more storage. 

And though it hurts to think about it, some companies may need to decrease their storage if revenue drops. (This won’t happen to you, of course). But if it were to happen, a data center should be able to update your plan. 

Further, flexibility can help your bottom dollar. You’ll save money by purchasing only what you need, but some data centers only offer one-size-fits-all plans. If your business grows by just 10 percent, you won’t want to buy double the storage you already have. ​

Asking for a custom plan isn’t an abnormal request, so don’t let a company convince you otherwise. You may not need this kind of flexibility now, but consider making this request to avoid complications in the future. 

3. Age of the Data Center

Older people are great. Older data centers aren’t. 

The data center boom took place in the 1990s. And it’s no surprise to anyone that technology has drastically changed since then. Believe it or not, most people don’t have a car phone anymore. 

The problem with some data centers built in the 90s is that they haven’t modernized since then. They’re still running on the tech that went out of date way too long ago. And while there is some standardization in the data center industry, no governing body requires businesses to update their tech. 

So, you might be getting sold 1990s technology for a 2020s price. To use a 1990s phrase, that’s totally buggin’. ​

Of course, many companies have updated their data center since then, so it comes down to the equipment. When shopping for a data center, consider finding out the age of the data center or at least the age of the equipment. A long-standing business sounds great, but you may receive better service from a younger company with recently purchased equipment. 

4. Service Reliability and Uptime

R-E-L-I-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y find out what it means to me. 

How reliable do you want your data center? 100% reliable, right? Of course. Why else would you collocate? 

Data centers are always reliable, but no one can guarantee 100% uptime. (If they do, they’re lying). But data centers can guarantee 99% or better uptime.  

In the industry, there are different tier ratings for data centers, categorized by the Uptime Institute. Many factors go into determining these ratings, but one of the biggest is uptime availability. Here are the minimum standards: 

  • Tier I: 99.671% uptime 
  • Tier II: 99.741% uptime
  • Tier III: 99.982% uptime 
  • ​Tier IV 99.995 uptime 

Those numbers sound almost the same, but they’re far from it. A Tier I data center can have up to 28.82 hours of downtime a year, but you can expect less than 30 minutes of downtime from a Tier IV data center.  

5. Physical Security

Every data center will promise you great digital security. And as we already discussed, choosing a center in a temperate climate is also essential. But physical security also includes threats from people. 

Unless you work in a high-risk industry, it’s unlikely that people will want to steal data from your specific company. But you still don’t want the wrong people to be able to access your data or harm it in any way. 

Enter physical security safeguards. A data center needs to have fences, locked doors, multiple levels of access, and security staff to keep everything secure. Data center managers should only grant access to the people who need it. 

Working with a data center that employs armed guards is also valuable. Hopefully, they will never need to be in action, but their existence alone will deter thieves or bad actors. 

Another consideration is that destruction of property is lower in a safer city. Consider choosing a data center in a less populated and lower crime area. Keep in mind that the location also needs to balance with how close the city is to large cities and your own business. A data center in Nowhere, Wyoming, won’t work for a business in New York City. 

6. Company Viability

It’s Friday at 3. You’re having a good day, and you’re excited for the weekend. 

All of a sudden, what’s that? You’re getting a call from your data center rep. They’re telling you they’ve gone bankrupt! You have three days to move your data somewhere else! 

This is the worst news ever! Maybe that’s an exaggeration, and while that story probably won’t win a Pulitzer prize, it’s not an unlikely situation. When data centers shut down, you won’t lose all your data, but the headache of transferring everything elsewhere is not something you want anytime soon. 

Plus, moving data centers would also mean paying for start-up and moving fees again. Costly, time-consuming, and frustrating is everything a data center shouldn’t be. 

How do we avoid this? Choose a data center that has evident company stability. There are a couple of ways to ensure this. Very simply, ask the account manager about their financials and the company’s major stakeholders. But also make sure to research the company on your own. ​

Building a data center is quite expensive, so you shouldn’t have to worry about a data center being frivolous financially. But it’s worth asking to make sure you’re not stuck in a pinch later on down the road. ​

7. Industry Compliance

Do you work in healthcare or finance? If so, you likely follow SOC or HIPAA guidelines. If that’s the case, you need to make sure the data center you work with is also compliant. 

As people who work in these industries know, a breach in information can be a massive blow to your company. Lawsuits, certification concerns, and public backlash can all be serious issues.  

The employees of your data center are a risk if they don’t comply to HIPAA or SOC guidelines. If someone leaves data open on an unlocked computer or if an employee shares private information, a breach, though small, has taken place.  

Data centers need to have structured access, data use guidelines, and regular HIPAA training to avoid minor breaches. These smaller breaches are just as severe for your organization as a full-scale attack, so make sure to ask about how your data is protected. ​

And if you don’t work in healthcare or finance, having a data center that complies to those industry guidelines can still be very valuable. Privacy is key no matter what your business does.

Now, let’s choose a data center

Knowing how to choose a data center doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re able to weed out some of the options using the standards above, you shouldn’t have any trouble making your next pick. 

TenHats’ data center meets these requirements and more. If you’re interested in working with us, contact us for a quote. We look forward to hearing from you! 

See If TenHats Is The Right IT Partner For You