Professionals in fiber optics and related fields want to know where data centers will be a growing business. They'd also like to understand why they're being built in the places they are. While there's no way to be sure of future trends, corporations keep certain factors in mind. They put more data centers where they see favorable conditions. Understanding how they decide helps in making career and business decisions.

The Regional Economy

Data centers need to be where the customers are. A generally strong economy, especially one where IT is a big part, attracts new data centers. Today every kind of business relies on computing and large amounts of data, so a predominantly high-tech economy isn't a requirement. If the businesses in the area tend to be data-intensive though, so much the better.

Whether the economy is growing or declining is very important. An area that has a lot of businesses but isn't growing may already have all the data centers it will need for the near future. If business is starting to boom, it can be a good place for new centers even if the current market is just moderate.

An area with a strong economy could have high real estate costs. Sometimes moving farther into the suburbs helps. The question is how the savings weigh against accessibility, the availability of reliable power, and the costs of additional cabling. These costs ultimately figure in regardless of whether the company buys, leases, or sublets.

Some economic factors have an especially strong effect on computing and data storage facilities.

• The cost of electric power is a major consideration. Power can account for as much as 70% of a data center's ongoing costs. Some areas are less expensive than others because of the proximity of power sources, the tax situation, or simply supply and demand. Other locations may offer renewable energy sources. A location that has more than one power grid available is very desirable because it provides redundancy. If one power source goes down, there is a backup source immediately available.

• Taxes, regulations and incentives are an important part of the economic climate. Taxes on business income, property ownership, and energy vary hugely from one area to another. Some places have tax breaks and/or incentives for certain types of business. Any business likes locations where it will be taxed the least.

• Laws affecting data privacy matter for international data centers. The governments of some countries are hostile to privacy, and they routinely demand access to information. Data centers in those countries can't protect their customers' data, so they're unattractive to individuals and businesses. At the other end, some countries may require extra procedures to protect customers' data. This helps their reputation for privacy, but imposes extra costs.

Geographic considerations

The geography of an area can make it a great choice or a completely unsuitable one. An area that is less prone to natural disasters makes customers more confident, and it lowers insurance costs. Many businesses consider the interior of the United States safer than the coasts. The risk of hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods is lower.

Geography affects real estate costs and choices. Where there is more open land, it's easier to find a suitable location at a reasonable price.

Cooling is a big part of the budget, and climate has a strong effect on its cost. In an area with mild summers and cold winters, like Canada or Scandinavia, keeping temperatures in the operating range is much less expensive than in Singapore or Texas. The cost of heating is a less important factor, since computing equipment generates a lot of the heat it needs.

Accessibility for workers and suppliers makes some otherwise excellent areas less suitable. The data center really needs to be within reasonable reach of a highway and close to a population center. A data center location which is a long trip for employees and deliveries isn't a good choice, even if it's cool and inexpensive.

Local considerations

The exact location matters. Sites less than a mile apart can present major differences. The availability of power and network connections can vary significantly. Having to run extra power lines is not only an additional cost but can increase the risk of outages due to damage to the lines. The same applies to network cables. Running them underground reduces the risk but isn't always an option.

Some locations carry a greater physical risk than others. One which is at risk of landslides or floods is less suitable.

The worst nightmare for a data center is an electromagnetic pulse strong enough to damage systems. Two ways an EMP could happen are a severe solar storm and a nuclear detonation. In the first case, geography doesn't matter. If a nuclear attack occurs, data loss might seem to be the least of the problems. But a center that holds valuable military information ought to have a chance of coming through intact. Extremely high-security centers are likely to be located away from populated areas and military targets, even though that causes some inconvenience.

It is important to note that the fiber optic cabling is not at all affected by an electro-magnetic pulse. Fiber is immune to EMP because the data or information being carried by the cabling is transmitted using light, not electricity. The EMP does not interrupt the flow of data but it does affect the electronic equipment transmitting and receiving the signals as well as the servers.

These factors weigh against each other. A data center location that is remote is safer from many risks, but it still needs to connect to its customers and let its employees get there.

The workforce

Finally, a data center needs to attract skilled employees. People with strong experience and abilities in network security, system management, and cabling are needed for ongoing operation. An area with a lot of high-tech business will have such people.

An area near a college or university with strong computer science and information technology programs is a major plus. Eager and energetic graduates enter the workforce each year.

The downside of an area with a strong information technology presence is that the competition to hire people may be intense. Salaries are likely to be high. New graduates are less expensive, but they don't have real experience in the field. At least part of the workforce has to be experienced. The company running the data center has to take the cost of hiring and keeping them into account.

One factor that might not normally be considered, but could be influential, is the quality of life in the area. Data center employees tend to be very educated and well paid so an area that has cultural and recreational amenities as well as good educational and health care facilities will have the best chance to retain highly skilled employees.

Do you have questions? Call one of our fiber optic experts today to explore your available options.