Data centres generally fit into one of two categories: inner-city and edge data centres. Understanding the differences between them will help you pick the best option 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, large populations and wide talent pools. Edge data centres, on the other hand, are 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 becoming less important, and the advantages of ease of access and proximity to a company's regional office.
Inner-city data centre: A data centre located near a city centre, in a highly populated area, near an internet exchange point.
Edge data centre: A data centre located away from a city, often in a less populated area, and not so closely connected to data networks.
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 and more parking. Additionally, you have the option of picking an edge data centre that is close to other useful resources, like a hotel or an airport.
Latency is the time taken between 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 frustration users experience.
Latency will be affected 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 appeal to you if your office is also in the 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.
5 reasons why an edge data centre might suit your business
Now that edge data centres can provide high connection speeds on a level with inner-city data centres, it is worth considering their unique advantages:
- Connectivity – All good data centres, wherever they are located, 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 important.
- Proximity – There are millions of SMEs across the UK.. Edge data centres can be located anywhere, which means you can choose one that is close to you – ensuring speedy access 24/7 and low latency.
- Lower costs – Lower rents in regional areas mean lower overheads and more competitive costs.
- Room to grow – Space is at a premium in centralised data centres which can limit growth opportunities. Edge data centres have more room and can link to other edge data centres so you can expand as needed.
- Personal service – A smaller data centre can offer a more personalised service, responding quickly to Remote Hands requests, for example, or helping with IT infrastructure upgrade plans.
Choose local, think global
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.
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.