When looking at data centres, they will generally fit into one of two categories: inner-city or edge data centres. Working with a data centre in a city centre will be a different experience compared to an edge data centre, which are based in less populated areas, and understanding these differences will help you pick which of these options will be best for your business.
Centralised data centres are located within inner-city ‘tech hubs’, and were traditionally favoured for their proximity to big internet exchange points, big populations and big talent pools. Edge data centres, on the other hand, could be on the fringes of towns or in the countryside. Typically smaller in size, edge data centres have grown in popularity over the last few years thanks to proximity to internet exchanges growing less important, and the advantages they can offer around ease of access and proximity to a company's office if they're not city based.
Inner-city data centre: A data centre located near a city centre, in a highly populated area.
Edge data centre: A data centre located away from a city, in a less populated area.
Location, location, location – why does it matter?
Location is not the most important factor in choosing a data centre, but it is one of them. This is for two main reasons:
Your engineers will need to make regular trips to the data centre, so reducing how far they have to travel will have a significant impact on their working day. Additionally, if something goes wrong with your IT equipment and your system is down, do you want them to visit the data centre an hour away, or the one four hours away?
So choosing between an edge or inner-city data centre here depends not only on how close the data centre is to your office, but also travel times and convenience. Inner-city data centres will often have better public transport connections, but if your engineers have a van of equipment they need to drive over, an edge data centre will have much less congested roads. Additionally you have the option of picking an edge data centre that is also close to other useful resources, like a hotel or an airport.
Latency is the time taken between you issuing a command and the server responding. This could be, for example, an employee trying to open a file or it could be a customer trying to open a webpage. Latency impacts every interaction you have with your server. The higher it is (i.e. the longer it takes), the greater the productivity loss and the more frustrated users become.
Latency will be effected by the data centre's proximity to your office, and to the nearest internet exchange point, with closer to both being better. However, connection infrastructure is much more sophisticated than it used to be, with most data centres able to provide over 1Gbps, so a data centre's location has less of an impact on latency than it used to, meaning other priorities (like ease of access or cost) might take priority for you.
The inner-city tech hub data centre – pros and cons
An inner-city data centre will be much more appealing to you if your office is also in the dead-centre of a city, but it's still worth weighing up the pros and cons.
- Good connectivity – Thanks to city infrastructure and proximity to internet exchanges
- Proximity to other big businesses – Useful for networking and winning business
- High cost – Expensive property in city centres puts up rack rates and can have a significant impact on your overall costs
- Accessibility – Gridlocked roads or failures in public transport could make getting to problem servers difficult at a time when every minute counts
If you’re not living and working in the city, or you’re trying to keep costs down, an urban data centre might not be the best choice for you, but it really does depend on where your office and staff are located, and what your priorities are.
Why an edge data centre might suit your business
Edge data centres lack the proximity to other businesses of their inner-city counterparts, but the biggest obstacle to them, historically, was high latency due to their distance from internet exchange points. Now that edge data centres can provide high connection speeds on level with inner-city data centres, it is now an option to utilise the unique advantages they can offer:
- Connectivity – All good data centres, wherever they are located, will offer carrier-neutral connectivity, giving you optimum connectivity at the best price. With the speed of fibre connections and the advances on the horizon in the form of 5G, proximity to city-centre internet exchange points is less meaningful than it once was.
- Proximity – There are millions of SMEs in the UK, most of which are not located in city centres. Edge data centres can be located anywhere, which means you can choose one that is close to you – ensuring that all-important speedy access and low latency.
- Easy access – Choosing a data centre at a convenient access point, near to you or, for example, near an airport, ensures easy access 24/7.
- Lower costs – Lower rents give edge data centres the benefit of lower costs, ensuring you pay less for your rack space.
- Room to grow – Space is at a premium in centralised data centres, so you’ll have limited growth opportunities. Edge data centres will have more room or link to other edge data centres to grow their capacity and give you the option to expand.
- Personal service – A smaller data centre can offer a more personalised service, responding quickly to Remote Hands requests, for example, or helping you with IT infrastructure upgrade plans.
Choose local, think global
Edge data centres should never be likened to the ‘country cousin’ compared to the urban data centre. Smaller, yes, but no less high-tech. Edge data centres have the same duty of care, the same high security standards and perhaps even greater attention to customer service, meaning they are an equal contender for your business.
So when weighing up the data centre you want to work with, don't dismiss edge data centres, or you might miss out on the ideal data centre partner. Additionally, edge data centres could be useful for services like managed backups, even if you're based in a city centre.