Where should you locate your next data center?

By Michael
November 20, 2009

Geography may have lost its luster among curriculum creators, but it remains an important consideration when planning a data center. After all, no business wants to locate such a critical component to its overall mission in a place where it will be under six feet of water in six months.

Threats to a data center from natural disasters can be reduced depending on where the facility is located. When it comes to natural disasters in the United States, nobody has a better handle on them than the Federal Emergency Management Agency, also known as FEMA.

Based on presidential disaster declarations over the last eight years, data centers as less likely to suffer service interruptions from natural disasters in the Northwest than in any other part of the country.

According to the agency, from 2000 to 2008, FEMA Region X, made up of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, had areas declared disasters by the president only 25 times. Disaster types were fires, floods, earthquakes and severe storms.

The Northwest offers other more economic benefits as well. As we have pointed out in past blogs, one of the prevailing concerns with data centers is their massive power consumption to both run the servers and cool the data center as a whole. And this is another reason to favor the Northwest.

As Vertatique points out in their blog,

“…the popularity of the Columbia River Valley for mega data centers [is] due to its inexpensive and low-carbon hydroelectricity, its climate which reduces cooling costs, and its fiber optic infrastructure. “

A close second to the Northwest as a relatively safe place to locate a data center is directly on the other side of the country. During the period tracked by FEMA, Region I, comprised of the New England states, had areas declared disasters by a president only 28 times. FEMA Region II, made up of New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, finished a close third with 29 disaster declarations.

However, electricity costs in the Northeast (New York, New Jersey and New England) averaged 0.1628/khr for commercial customers and 0.1131/khr for industrial customers. Compare those rates to the Northwest’s 0.0715/khr for commercial customers and 0.0574 for industrial customers. Moreover, most of the electricity in the Northwest comes from renewable, “green” hydroelectric power, which is an added benefit as companies try to be more environmentally conscious. Of course, those looking outside the country for a bargain could look towards Iceland for their data center, but there are concerns of natural disaster and connectivity issues, as Iceland sits atop a giant volcano.

So considering the Northwest’s cheap and abundant power, as well as the relatively small incidents of natural disasters, there is really no wonder why companies like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Ask.com, and Intuit Inc. have been flocking to the Northwest to build out mega datacenters.


  1. I want to know what specific companies suffered the losses and how
    much the losses were for each company.

  2. The statistics we uncovered basically talked about presidential decrees of disaster. So if a certain area has many natural disasters, then it could be assumed that had the potential for interrupting dtaa center connectivity.

  3. We maintain an index of commercial datacenters which features uptime as well as map overlays for tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning strikes and even zombie outbreak survival (estimated – yes, although backed up by real data) at http://www.UPTIMEdatabase.com.

Leave A Comment