IT Focus Area: infrastructure operations
May 6, 2016
How to Choose the Best Location for Your Data Center: 5 Things You Should Know
Choosing a location for your data center requires taking strategic steps toward the best outcome, just like moving pieces in a game of chess.
Think of the business as the king. Your data center is all of the pieces that protect the king, making it possible for you to overtake your opponent.
Every move you make with your data center impacts the business. The wrong move can put your security, resiliency, availability and services at stake. Without thinking a few steps ahead of the game, you could end up in an irreversible situation.
That’s why it’s crucial to learn the game ― and understand your strengths and weaknesses ― before you create your data center strategy.
Make a Game Plan
Location isn’t just about how close your data center is to your office. It’s about selecting a data center that meets your business, IT and security needs. There are a lot of variables that can impact the outcome of your data center game plan. In order to devise the best plan for your specific needs, you should define your expectations accurately by posing the right questions.
Here are five things you should consider before moving forward with your data center location:
1. Your goals
The first step in selecting the right data center is to clearly identify your goals. Decide how your data center will help you launch new services, mitigate risks or reduce your costs. Think carefully about the combination of qualities you’re looking for in your data center so that it will meet your goals accurately.
We recommend looking at the following variables and balancing them when you choose a data center:
What is your data center’s function?
Start by asking what you will use the data center for at your company. Will it house production or non-production data?
From there, consider your other key uses. For example, will your data center be active or for disaster recovery? Will it be your primary site or a secondary site? Do you need this data center to have high availability and operational resiliency?
Is an internal or a hosted data center best for my organization? Companies are realizing that aligning their data center facilities with their availability requirements demands a significant capital investment.
Does your company want to be in the data center business? What is your IT organization good at managing and what makes sense to transition to a third party? Is it more important to house systems internally or to have the flexibility to ramp up or down services?
Will you use your existing operations and staff?
Do you want your in-house team to manage your data center? Or will you outsource its day-to-day operations? What are the costs of managing your data center yourself versus having a third party manage it?
What are your constraints?
In today’s 24/7 business world, customers expect on-demand access to services and don’t want to wait for pages to load or apps to function. Can your data center provider meet your connectivity and latency requirements? Will you be able to quickly and cost-effectively provide new services?
What is your security or risk profile?
Does your proposed location have geographic, manmade, or technical risks? Do you have to meet compliance requirements? If so, how will your data center impact your ability to meet these requirements?
2. Your operations
The root cause of many security breaches is a failure with IT operations – not a security failure. Here are some questions to ask about how your data center will impact your operations:
What is your business strategy and how does that relate to the data center?
What is your IT strategy?
Does your data center need to be located near your office?
How are you running your operations?
How often do you move workloads around? How much agility do you need?
What is the maturity level of your IT organization?
Do you need additional managed services?
Do you need cloud services?
Is the facility intended to be "lights out"?
Will you manage your data center in house, or do you need a third party to manage it?
Will you use your existing facilities?
Do you need new staff or skills to manage your data center?
3. Your security
While many IT conversations focus on cyber security, your data center’s physical security is also vital. Authorized personnel and vendors are often the source of security breaches ― just think of the recent breaches at Target and Ashley Madison.
Here are some questions to ask when considering the security of your data center location:
What are your security needs?
What are your compliance requirements?
Can your data center help you meet these requirements?
Where is your data center located? How secure is the building?
Is the location prone to geographic, manmade, or technical risks that can impact your security?
What does the data center offer in terms of physical and IT security?
Does your company assist with third-party audits?
4. Your business continuity and disaster recovery needs
Your business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) goals play a huge role in your data center strategy. The business and IT organization should work together to define your BC/DR requirements. From there, you can determine how your data center strategy will help you meet these requirements.
Here are five things to consider:
Strategy. It is critical to understand your short- and long-term business strategies. Consider how IT will support business functions. Cloud, managed services, and internal facilities all may be part of your strategic solution.
Location. Where will you locate your data center? What are the geographic, manmade, or technical risks in relation to your management’s risk appetite?
Your data. How will you move data between your data centers? Will this data be synchronized? In other words, what amount of data loss can you allow? How will data loss impact your business operation, workflow, and recovery processes?
Your assets. How will you provision your assets ― via standby, quick-ship agreements or by repurposing existing resources – to ensure their availability meets your business requirements?
The network. Consider network latency and costs. Telecommunications costs are based on distance, so they can add up over time and impact your data center strategy.
5. Your finances
Many organizations don’t have the capital expenses (CAPEX) to improve their data centers to align with business availability requirements, so they turn to operational expenses (OPEX) solutions such as colocation data centers or hybrid models.
Most data centers are more than 20 years old and require a significant capital investment to improve their facilities to meet business objectives. Companies are looking at their funding to decide if remaining in the data center business is the most viable long-term solution. Hosted solutions help you improve your data center facilities while transitioning costs to an operational model.
Winning the Game
In the past, many organizations wanted to be physically close to their data centers. However, physical proximity may not be the best choice.
It’s more important to make a strategic decision based on what’s best for your business. Locationis more about how you distribute your data centers and how you balance your workloads between them.
Answering the questions in this article can help you make the right moves.
And you must be prepared to quickly change your data center strategy based on what’s happening with your competitors, market and customers.