You have a map. You have a pin. You want to build a new data center. Where should you put that pin? Despite the Internet and virtual working, physical data center site selection is still a major decision. 

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Data Center Site Selection Overall Best Practices

The first best practices are in the selection process itself.

  1. Define a location selection process to list critical and desirable selection criteria. Assign a weight or score to each one, compared to the others. Then you can objectively compare different possibilities for sites.
  2. Remember that the selection process should not be limited to the situation today. Simulate future trends and needs to make sure a choice made now will also be the right one into the future.

Security and Safety Considerations

Security and safety are typically the highest priority in data center site selection:

  1. Avoid high-risk areas, such as aircraft glide paths, but also proximity to major highways (risk of fuel truck accidents.)
  2. Choose a site that has easy access for emergency responders.
  3. Choose a site with good air quality to protect the health of your employees, as well as to lower costs and avoid equipment malfunction.
  4. In a building with multiple tenants, prefer the end of the building rather than the middle, to minimize disruption caused by other tenants.

Building Considerations

For the data center building:

  1. For existing construction, single-story buildings with large floor areas are often best. The main advantages are lower rental and operating costs, better security, and higher flexibility.
  2. Check there is sufficient area around the building for parking, water, fuel storage, and access for delivery trucks. Building and parking lot expansion needs should be evaluated and checked too.

Real Estate and Negotiations Concerns

The cost of real estate and negotiations can be showstoppers:

  1. Besides aiming for a cost per square foot that falls within your budget, consider possible add-on costs for upgrading power, networking, and any other necessary facilities.
  2. For speedier negotiations, prefer sites with single owners, rather than multiple owners.
  3. Check on the availability of public incentives, offered, for example, by municipalities to attract high-technology businesses.
  4. Make sure you know about any site or zoning restrictions that could affect the type of building or operations you plan (for example, the operation of diesel generators.)

Climate Considerations

Climate and natural conditions can affect the quality of a site for a data center in many ways.

  1. Get weather data for a sufficiently long period (10 years) to understand if there is a history of natural disasters.  Avoid such sites.
  2. Consider sites that make outside air cooling viable, thus lowering a major cost in data center operation.
  3. Check that the site humidity ranges are compatible with the IT equipment you plan to use in the data center (or face extra costs to make this so inside the data center).

Network Connectivity and Power Considerations

Network connectivity and power availability must be properly assessed too.

  1. Ensure you have adequate networking and power for your needs today, and that these facilities can keep pace with your needs into the future.
  2. Prefer sites that offer redundant, separate network links and power lines. The best is to have the entry points on opposite sides of the building (north and south for power, east and west for networking, for example.)

Staffing Considerations

Even the most automated data center needs staff to run it:

  1. Moderate economic conditions are often a good trade-off, with sufficient access to skilled people, but without other expenses driving up overall costs.
  2. Locating a data center near a university or IT training school can ensure the availability of staff with appropriate skills.
  3. A site offering good commute times and quality of life, in general, will help avoid staff turnover.


Which other best practices for data center site selection would you add to this list? Share your input with us in the Comments section underneath.


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