Data Center Site Selection – Low Risk vs. Close Proximity

by Bill Dougherty
25 July 2012

Location, Location, Location

When choosing a data center, location counts. Location is often the first criteria discussed when evaluating a new data center partner. But too often, the driver behind location is proximity.  IT professionals like to be close to their servers. As much as we like to talk about operating a lights-out facility, there is always the comfort factor of being able to drive to the data center if there’s a problem.

Instead of proximity, risk should be the determining factor in choosing a data center. Risk of natural and manmade disasters that could affect the availability or performance of the systems you are housing. Intuitively we all understand this, but too often we blind ourselves to the risks that are right in front of us.

For example, most people would consider earthquakes to be the number one natural disaster risk in California. The risk of another Loma Prieta earthquake (6.9 on the richter scale) occurring in the Bay Area in the next 50 years is between 50% - 80% depending on which city you are looking at. Loma Prieta took down part of the Bay Bridge and the freeway system, and was a huge deal back in 1989. But look at a USGS map of earthquake probabilities, against a map of data centers in the Bay Area.

Data Center Selection

Most of the data center space in the Bay Area is in the worst place possible from an earthquake perspective. Not only is the probability high of another large quake, but the land the data centers sit on is subject to liquefaction. Basically, the sand underneath the buildings acts like a fluid during a quake. Even if the data center itself survives, will the surrounding electrical grid, water supply, roads, fuel vendors, etc. continue to function?

Earthquakes are just one of the many risks that data centers must deal with. When choosing a data center, looking at all the risks associated with the facility is key. The Uptime Institute has published a helpful guide to the natural disaster risk profiles for data center locations. A detailed discussion of the variety of risk factors data centers face is available at’s facilities in Sacramento, California and Ashburn, Virginia are both in locations with low composite risk scores according to the Uptime Institute. For example, while the probability of a Loma Prieta sized quake hitting Bay Area data centers is higher than 50%, the probability of a quake of that size hitting RagingWire in Sacramento is less than .03%.

Risk, not proximity, should be the driving factor in your data center location criteria. RagingWire has a variety of innovative services, like our unlimited remote hands service, that can less the need for proximity to be a determining factor. RagingWire lets you choose the best data center, not just the best data center within driving distance of your office.

Bill Dougherty

Sr. Vice President & Chief Technology Officer