Why Should I Choose a Data Center? (Part 1 of 5)

By Randy GoodsonBlog

Why Should I Choose a Data Center?

So…when I searched for “Why should I choose a data center,” I got thousands of results for “How to choose a data center.”  I found checklists on the things to look for when choosing a data center. I found articles explaining how to choose the right power and cooling and data feeds for a data center.  I found locations of data centers.  I even found companies that will help you choose a data center.  What I didn’t find was an answer to my question, “Why should I choose a data center?”  What should I do if I find myself in a position where I have to choose between building my own data center or leasing space in a third-party data center? What if I am in a position where I need to refurbish and modernize my current data center?  Should I choose to collocate my equipment somewhere else; in a facility that already exists?  In the next few weeks, I am going to try to answer this question by writing a series of blog posts about several different reasons why you should choose a preexisting data center over trying to do it yourself.  However, keep in mind that I am a bit biased, as I am employed by a data center.  Only you can answer this question for yourself, taking into account all of the data that you have gathered regarding your specific situation.


It’s nothing new that our server farms, storage arrays, network equipment and other infrastructure devices need to have reliable power in order to operate. It’s no secret that getting a good, solid power infrastructure in place is not cheap; especially if you want to be redundant and have options when the power feed from the electric company is gone. So, let’s say that you are a company in downtown Big City, USA. Typically, there will only be one set of power feeds running through downtown. Granted, it will probably be buried and it will be hard to sever the lines.  However, in order to get a completely separate and redundant power feed will likely cost in the upper six figures (if not more) because the build-out will be very costly.  You may be able to share the upfront costs with other businesses in your area, but that means a lot of effort lobbying the businesses around you for their financial commitment to your project.  And, all of this hinges on whether or not a lot of other things come into place; such as the power company agreeing to do it in the first place, or the city allowing the work to be completed.

Or, let’s say that you are an older college on a hill in a small rural town in the middle of thunderstorm country.  Anyone who has worked with technology in an old building knows the problems that come with it.  There’s no easy way to get the building grounded, not to mention the fact that it’s nearly impossible to find a good space for a wiring closet, let alone an in-house data center.  So, if I know you at all, I know that every time the forecast even thinks of calling for thunderstorms, you are getting a bit anxious because you don’t have adequate power protection or building grounding.  And, what if…wait for it…what if you need to run power between floors of a building that is on the National Historic Registry? Woe be unto you who tries to mess with the Historic Registry.

Or, what if you just happen to be in an area that has multiple power feeds and you are in a fairly new facility that is up to current code and is grounded properly.  I am fairly certain that just about everybody out there reading this blog has experienced some sort of power outage before.   So, the next challenge would be to make it so that your power is available 24×7.  This requires some sort of combination of generators, uninterruptable power supplies and automatic transfer switches.  The more equipment you have to power, the bigger (and usually more) equipment you are going to need in order to keep delivering that power to your stuff.  This can get very tricky to implement; not to mention the sheer cost of installing a large generator or two, huge UPSs and all the switch gear to tie it together.

So…you are in a brand new, state-of-the-art facility and your business is growing by leaps and bounds. Congratulations! Now, your IT staff comes to you and says, “We need to add a new cabinet to support our growing need for servers.  It’s relatively easy to add another cabinet; that is, if you have the room. But, what about getting a completely new, separate and dedicated set of power circuits to the cabinet?  If it wasn’t thought through prior to the data center opening, this can prove to be a huge hassle. In larger data centers, the UPS (provider of the circuit) is typically not anywhere near the actual equipment that needs the power.  So, an electrician needs to get involved and power cabling needs to be pulled from the location of the UPS to the location of the new rack.  And, if you need this done right away, you may be paying extra to expedite the installation. Oh…and all this is assuming that your currently installed UPSs can support another circuit or two.

You can choose to take this not-so-small project on yourself…or…you can choose to collocate your equipment at a data center that has all of this done for you already.  For instance, a Tier IV data center will have multiple power feeds with multiple generator sets and multiple UPSs (2N or 2N+1) in order to supply your equipment with the good, solid, stable power that you need to keep your users happy by keeping your network up and running.  A data center will also have all of the switching gear and monitoring software in place so that the power will stay on and stable.  And…you don’t have to do anything to make this all happen…it’s their job to do it for you!!! All you have to do is to haul your stuff to the data center and install it in the cabinet.   And, instead of a huge cash outlay, you can pay the data center as you go.  Viola…You’ve just moved all of your power investment from CAPEX to OPEX and you don’t have to do any of the trenching and cabling and terminating and installing and testing yourself.  And, the CFO is starting to acknowledge your existence in ways other than demeaning and derogatory quips about how much money you are spending

Don’t forget to check in next week when we take on the hot subject of cooling.