If your business has a website or an e-commerce store, you are a data center user. A data center is a location (often an entire building, but sometimes part of a business’s premises) that houses servers. And also provides them with power and a connection to the internet. A large data center may host tens of thousands of servers, and there are, by some estimates, hundreds of thousands of data centers in the world. You may not use a data center directly, or even a server, but your hosting provider does. They may house their servers in a data center they own or rent rack space in a commercial co-location facility.
The data center that hosts your site influences its performance, security, and reliability. Data centers differ enormously in the quality of service they offer. Before settling on a hosting provider, it’s in your interest to look into the capabilities of its data center.
If you are not familiar with the technical side of hosting, it is difficult to know what qualities to look out for, so, let’s discuss the five most important features of a data center.
The internet is a network of networks, and it’s the role of a data center to connect your site to that network. This can be done in several different ways, and the bandwidth, network reliability, and latencies available to your site depend on how the data center is connected.
A smaller data center might be connected to a single local bandwidth provider, which itself buys bandwidth from a regional provider, which in turn links to one of the major backbone providers. This arrangement works, but it’s not ideal for sites that depend on low latencies and reliability.
The fastest and most reliable data centers connect directly to the major bandwidth providers via an interconnect or a peering arrangement. They offer connections from several different bandwidth providers to reduce the likelihood of an outage. This type of data center offers the fastest and most reliable performance. Look for information about the data center’s connectivity to major bandwidth providers such as Level 3, CenturyLink, or Cogent.
2. Security standards
It is impossible for a data center user to thoroughly assess the security of a data center, but there are security standards backed by qualified third-party auditors. The data center’s sales team will be happy to boast about their facility’s security certifications, so be sure to ask about SSAE 16, and SOC certification, as well as PCI DSS and HIPAA compliance.
3. On-site security
Physical security is just as important as network security. Data is one of your business’s most valuable assets, and poor physical security can lead to unfortunate incidents of data loss, industrial espionage, or even theft of hardware. At the very least, a data center should provide comprehensive access control with biometric or electronic identity verification, round-the-clock CCTV surveillance, and on-site patrols.
4. Power redundancy
It is not unusual for power grids to suffer brownouts and blackouts, both of which can affect server uptime and reliability. A data center with a single power supply cannot guarantee the availability of your site. Better data centers have redundancies in place to ensure consistent power, including uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), which can keep servers running for a short time in the event of an outage; backup generators that can supply the data center’s needs for hours or days; and redundant connections to more than one supplier.
5. Geographic location
Data center location is an important consideration: the further a data center is from your site’s visitors, the longer it takes for data to travel the distance between them. This isn’t always strictly true, because the number of network hops between points on the internet isn’t directly proportional to geographic distance, but, once you have determined that a data center provides low-latency connectivity to major bandwidth providers, geographic distance is the next most important contributor to latency.
If possible, choose a data center that is close to a substantial proportion of your users or customers. If your customers are in the US, it wouldn’t be wise to choose a data center located in Australia and vice versa.
The best data centers and hosting providers will be happy to answer your questions about all of the factors we have discussed. If you ensure that the data center hosting your site meets these five criteria, your site will enjoy an excellent performance, reliability, and security.