For many organizations, the idea of building a second site often arises from a desire to create, enhance or cut the cost of a business continuity strategy. "With our new site, we really wanted to improve on the [recovery] time from any kind of failure," Burch says. Kemet also wanted to get out of a costly relationship with a disaster recovery services provider, he adds.
Another motivation for creating a new data center is to boost system responsiveness for employees and customers in remote locales. Organizations running latency-sensitive network applications -- those that power retail and travel websites or financial services, videoconferencing and content distribution systems, for example -- usually like to place their applications as close to end users as possible to improve response times. By splitting a data center into two or more sites, an organization can more efficiently serve people scattered across a wide area -- even if they're on multiple continents.
Dayton, Ohio-based LexisNexis, known for its legal research and workflow services, decided in 2009 to establish a colo data center in Scottsdale, Ariz., to better serve customers from a location that's relatively immune to storms, earthquakes and other natural calamities. "We wanted something that was in the western region of the U.S.," says Terry Williams, the company's vice president of managed technology services. "Location was a huge part of our decision." The company already had a data center in Dayton.
Not surprisingly, network availability and performance were essential considerations for LexisNexis as it went about choosing the new site. "The key for us is network connectivity," Williams says. "That was something that couldn't be compromised on."
LexisNexis is hardly the only organization that wants to set up data centers closer to end users for better service, says Darin Stahl, a data center analyst at Info-Tech Research Group. "There's a definite move toward decentralization, and that's helping enterprises that want to open additional data centers," he says.
Williams says that turning to a colocation provider -- Phoenix-based IO Data Centers, in his case -- didn't require LexisNexis to compromise on any services or amenities. "We expected all of the normal things that a high-tier data center would have in terms of backup power, generators and all of those things, as well as network connectivity," he says.
For his part, Burch feels that using a colocation service -- Kemet Electronics chose Columbia, S.C.-based Immedion -- allowed a faster, less costly deployment without sacrificing convenience or functionality. "We were able to get everything set up within a two-month period, and that included the building out of office space, even converting some office space into raised-floor data center space, which is pretty amazing."
Finding a suitable colocation provider can be just as challenging as scouting a site for a traditional data center. "We looked at taking a building and converting it ourselves," Williams says. After deciding that overhauling a stand-alone building wouldn't be cost-effective, LexisNexis started looking for a colocation provider. "I would say that we probably spent six months searching for a site, and we probably looked at no less than 30 different locations and providers -- it was a very extensive search," he says.
Space at a premium
Of course, colo space can be tight in some locations, so expect to pay a premium in those areas. Tier1's Paschke explains that the economic slowdown and resulting credit crunch put the kibosh on a lot of data center capacity build-outs. Many enterprises put their own data center construction plans on hold, and colos reined in their expansion activity as well. So nowadays, organizations considering turning to a colo may find that the vendors don't have as much data center space as they need.