Key Considerations For Data Center Site Selection
Site selection is one of the most crucial aspects of building a data center – with everything from cooling methods to energy sources impacted by the facility’s location. While the importance of site selection might be obvious, what can be less clear is how to go about selecting the right location. Data centers come with a myriad of requirements and needs that must be considered: chance of natural disasters, environment, water impact, transportation options for workers, overall site fitness, distance to connectivity, and more. As you can see, that list can quickly become lengthy, however, there are four key considerations we recommend weighing most heavily when searching for your next data center site.
Environment and Exposure to Natural Disasters
One of the most significant considerations should always be the natural physical environment and the area’s exposure to potential natural disasters. After all, suffering damage from a natural disaster such as an earthquake, tornado or hurricane can have significant consequences, such as loss of equipment and data, outages, and revenue loss. As experts predict an increase in natural disasters – particularly flooding – in the future, it’s becoming increasingly important to consider these threats, as well as the climate as a whole.
It’s no secret that water and technology don’t mix, and with the potential for increased flooding in the future, avoiding floodplains and flood zones should be a top priority during your search. Flooding isn’t the only water-sourced threat, though. Potentially even more problematic and likely flying under your radar is liquefaction. When water-logged sediment loses strength during earthquakes, the damage to buildings in the area can be devastating. Researching the potential for disasters like floods, earthquakes, and more should be a significant part of your site selection process.
What would a data center be without top-notch connectivity? Not a contender for major enterprises, that’s for sure. Available connections and strategically placed entry points can make all the difference when it comes to your ability to deliver massive amounts of data reliably, quickly, and with low latency to meet customer needs or to quickly scale to meet new bandwidth requests at a moment’s notice. And not all connections are created equally. While it is true that you can build your center anywhere, the more beneficial option would be to build in a location that allows you to connect to various best-in-class providers known for their ability to deliver the highest-speed connections possible. When possible, working with a specific provider to tailor solutions to your site provides the best option, as demonstrated on this recent project.
It’s well known that many of these providers tend to build their facilities in clusters gathered around major peering points, making it easier for all to interconnect. That being the case, it would be beneficial to look for site locations in markets/geographical areas with higher concentrations of these provider clusters.
Data center location is one of the most important factors as it relates to carbon emissions and environmental impact, and sustainability is a growing consideration for operators. The push for sustainable solutions and vendors is leading us to new standards for data center operation. There are many ways to incorporate sustainable operations and the right solutions rely heavily on your choice of location.
Factors like humidity, daily hours of sunlight, and over climate effect a data center’s efficient use of power and water, as well as its ability to use renewable energy sources such as solar. When you consider that the most recent estimates by energy.gov lists data centers as being responsible for “2% of the total U.S. energy use,” the significant impact that the surrounding environment can have on your facility becomes clear.
In short, data centers have two primary sources drawing large amounts of energy; the battery systems supplying energy to servers and the energy required for cooling. Different environments have a direct effect on the energy needed for data centers to meet these two demands. Hot desert environments, for example, provide fewer hours where ambient air is used for cooling, meaning they are more heavily reliant on less environmentally conscious methods such as refrigeration technologies or water evaporation cooling.
The availability of transportation options, the average commute for employees, and access to public transportation also present viable, sustainable practices that can have just as significant of an impact as the technical aspects mentioned above. The big picture here is that sustainability is quickly becoming a key focus in the industry and it is time we put the environmental impact on par with or above cost considerations and begin thinking holistically about sustainability, resiliency and cost.
Any time you are determining a location, there are additional business factors that must always be a part of the process. From a given state’s available tax exemptions and incentives to data protection laws and even potential rebates and subsidies, available tax breaks and favorable laws can make a big difference for your business. Take Utah for example, which passed SB0114 in 2020, modifying sales and use tax exemptions for data centers in the state. Combine that with the state’s environmental factors, and you now have a top contender for a great data center location.
SB0114 isn’t the only such law. Many states offer various incentives to the data center industry and can help to differentiate between potential locations that are otherwise similar in terms of compatibility. It’s those small factors that can add up to large success once your facility is up and running.
Everyone will have their own priorities and guidelines when it comes to selecting their next site location. While all are valid, you should aim to check as many boxes as possible. Factors including the area’s environment, available connectivity, options for sustainable operations, and state incentives and guidelines are a formula sure to result in the choice of a premium location for your next data center.