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Although the growth of cloud computing and wireless networks have made the physical location of businesses less important, choosing where to place your data centre, particularly those offering colocation services remains critical. Businesses may need to access their servers to perform maintenance or upgrades, while the colocation providers will need to consider how the location effects their energy use and staffing requirements.
What makes a good colocation area?
There are number of factors that colocation providers must consider before setting up their data centre and proximity to customers is perhaps one of the most important. With colocation services, businesses retain ownership of all their server hardware and software and so transporting it to their data centre of choice needs to be as easy as possible. Good transport links to your colocation provider is important as CTOs and other high-ranking IT staff may need to visit to make adjustments, replace equipment or expand operations. Regarding the latter point, a good data centre location must also have plenty of space in order for customers and providers to grow. It is common for organisations to request more server space as they expand and if their colocation provider cannot supply this, they are likely to take their business elsewhere.
More and more colocation providers are also taking green energy concerns into account before deciding on their data centre locations. The power consumption of data centres is expected to reach 140 billion kilowatt hours annually by 2020, equivalent to 50 power plants[i]. Making use of renewable sources of energy, including wind, solar or tidal power, therefore, is beneficial to colocation providers in both financial and environmental terms. As such, as number of vendors have based their facilities in areas best suited to take advantage of these energy sources. Other factors that make an area attractive to colocation vendors include a strong supply of talented IT staff and protection from hazards, such as natural disasters.
When it comes to colocation services, the UK is thriving. The strength of its digital industries mean that data centre demand is high and some of the most popular areas have been listed below:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, London has the highest number of UK data centres specialising in colocation services, with 71[ii]. The capital city benefits from a high density of digital businesses and excellent transport links, meaning that there is no shortage of potential customers able to migrate their hardware to external hosts. With some of the UK’s best universities and IT colleges, London can also supply data centres with highly skilled individuals to ensure optimal performance and continued innovation. At Sungard Availability Services, we have a number of data centres in the London area, including our Docklands colocation facility. Perhaps the only drawback to the capital as a colocation area is the lack of space for expansion, particularly in inner city areas.
Manchester is another of the UK’s colocation hotspots, benefitting from recent interest in the north of England as a potential technology hub. The government’s Tech North startup initiative will boost digital business in the area, making it an even more viable option for data centre operators. Already the area is well served by university-trained individuals and is host to a number of the UK’s largest businesses, particularly those around Media City. It also offers some of the country’s fastest Internet speeds, which is vital for providing a strong hosting service.
Berkshire benefits from its close proximity to London (travelling from Reading takes less than half an hour by train) and plenty of space to create and expand data centre facilities. It also benefits from a thriving technology community, with major companies located in the urban areas of Slough and Reading, as well as out-of-town business parks, such as Thames Valley Park and Arlington Business Park. Colocation is also likely to be more affordable compared to central London locations.
Other UK hotspots for colocation include Birmingham, Newcastle and North Wales, but there are data centres distributed all over the country. For businesses seeking out the right colocation provider, location is a key consideration, but not the only one. IT managers must also evaluate whether their colocation provider is able to offer the level of security, reliability and affordability that they need.