There are plenty of factors when sizing up colocation providers: available space, power configurations, efficiency, support services, networking, etc. But one aspect makes all the difference, with ripple effects on many of these other factors: location. Depending on your infrastructure demands, you might need a data center nearby for low latencies or far away for disaster recovery; in either case, the location can also impact power pricing, energy efficiency, and connectivity.
According to Gartner, “in the past few years, there has been a shift in attitudes towards accepting remote colocation sites.” With remote hands services, monitoring tools, and increasing natural disasters in many of the more populous regions of the US, data centers that are located more centrally and further away from population centers are gaining prominence. For more details on natural disasters and data centers, check out How Safe is Your Data Center?
Gartner also suggests a model to choose data centers that starts with Geography, moves to Carriers, Resiliency, Power, Security, and finally Other Services. Once again, everything starts with location.
Although the initial move in process might be slightly more involved, colocating further from your primary office can deliver significant savings while maintaining your infrastructure requirements. Highly populated and desirable markets like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago bring associated higher costs for colocation compared to smaller cities, thanks to property costs, taxes, and the price of power. There may also be less room to expand as the provider is unable to obtain additional space nearby. In suburban markets this is less of a concern as plots are more likely to be available, in a high-rise data center situation, it may be impossible to expand in the same facility beyond the space and power configuration specified in your initial contract.
Price for labor can also trickle down to your bottom line, as providers must attract and retain qualified support employees in the NOC and for hands-on services. A data center technician earns around 20-30 dollars an hour on average, but that amount must adjust depending on the data center market in question. A technician in California is likely to be paid closer to the $30 range than one in Iowa. This might only affect your bill if you choose managed services, but it could contribute to overall higher costs as well.
Carrier-neutrality, fiber speeds, and access to multiple backbones are of varying importance to different environments. Providers that offer a variety of fiber communications from local and national providers, plus dark fiber, offer additional options for interconnections, Gigabit fiber, and more. The further from a major fiber trunk, the less likely the facility will offer many connection options. Plus, your latency is likely to be higher.
Test the latency requirements for your applications. If they can handle a slight bump, your search just opened up to many more territories that might offer some attractive benefits. VDI, finance and trading, and VoIP apps generally require lower latencies, but web hosting, storage, CRM, SharePoint, and productivity apps may not have the same need for speed.
A data center that is far away geographically but with carrier-neutral interconnections and a site nearby major cross country fiber lines could in fact offer better latency than a nearby facility with only one provider and less than 1 Gbps speeds.
The efficiency of a facility can be dramatically changed depending on its environment. Free cooling is available through much of the north and northwest of the country, reaching as far South as about Colorado before decreasing to less than ¾ of the year. Free cooling is one method to lower operational costs. It mostly depends on how hot and humid the area is throughout the year. Also called passive cooling, this method can drop PUEs quite a bit.
Power prices in the United States have increased 6.5% in the past three years. In a 500 kW colocation environment, that adds up to about $2,850 annually (assuming 8,765 hours per year). Different geographic markets experience power price fluctuations at different rates, so this 6.5% isn’t uniform across every state. But the cost increase does compound in states with higher power prices. If you can’t secure an incentivized power price, it may make sense to colocate in a market with lower power pricing.
While not directly tied to power pricing, power reliability is also essential. See how likely it might be for a blackout to hit your colocation provider based on historical data. If the data center provider also has multiple power entry points, or several nearby substations, their supply is more likely to withstand brownouts or other disruptions.
Location may also decide the sourcing of power. Though most data centers are stuck with the local power monopoly, some might have the luxury of negotiating with multiple area power providers, increasing resiliency and affording opportunity for lower pricing.
There are hundreds of local, regional, and national providers to sift through, so a combination of all these factors will help you zoom in on who can provide the proper combination to meet your infrastructure needs.