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Rules for Choosing Your Data Center Locations

January 29, 2015 / Evolve IP

Companies should view data centers like castles. Backup sites need to be heavily fortified against all possible threats and should be placed in strategic locations.

Yet, many businesses are unaware of how important distance and the surrounding area are for recovery efforts.

There’s no hard and fast rule regarding how far away your data center should be located but in a blog post about recovery data centers for Forrester, Rachel Dines put it perfectly when she said, “the sites should be far enough apart that they are not subject to the majority of the same risks.”

Evolve IP released a new report on disaster recovery that highlights several surprising data points regarding best practices for backup centers.


Evolve IP found two interesting differentiations in terms of distance with our study:

  • Nearly half of the respondents from government agencies noted their secondary site is less than 25 miles away from the main site
  • 20% of commercial businesses that utilize secondary sites stationed them within 25 miles as well. Only about 14% of the organizations we analyzed place their backup centers 1,000 miles away or more from their home base.

A backup site that is housed within 25 miles of your primary site is not a good idea for one significant reason. There is a high risk of both sites shutting down when a strong storm, power outage or other catastrophic event occurs rendering the entire purpose of secondary data center obsolete. Should you need to gain physical access to the secondary site reaching that location may also be impossible.

A data center location that is kept 1,000 miles away or more however won’t fall prey to the same problems as the primary location. In his post on Data Center Knowledge, Prashant Baweja, offers some good tips on what to consider when choosing a location for your secondary site.

Seismic Zones
Making sure the secondary site is outside of the same seismic zone as the primary site is a good rule of thumb. This way both sites will not fall victim to the same seismic disasters. There are plenty of seismic zone maps available on the web like the one below.


Environment and Climate
Be wary of the environment where your secondary site is located. If it is prone to drastic climate changes and inclement weather these details can have drastic effects on the site.

Electrical Power
Another good rule of thumb for understanding if the location of your data backup center is too close to your primary is if the two are dependent on the same source of electrical power. There is a great tool online for assessing the power grids and other industrial facilities in your local area. Just visit the EIA and choose the state you’d like to investigate.

Risk Assessments
It’s important to note that many companies have compliance standards they have to adhere to that often force facilities like backup centers to be managed in a certain way. Dejan Koustic, of 27001 Academy, writes that when companies do not have compliances requiring them to move their secondary sites to a certain location they have to undergo risk assessments that often look at many factors including what we’ve talked about here but also other forces like pandemic diseases, natural disasters, facilities like nuclear plants and military zones.

Evolve IP found that of the companies that have their data backup center location over 1,000 miles from the primary site, 17% of those have compliance standards and 7.5% do not.

Balancing Risk
The perfect location for a backup site will depend on your needs. However, a good general rule of thumb is “don’t house your secondary data center locations in an area that could be affected by the same issues as the first one.”

Our 2015 Disaster Recovery Report sheds more light on this issue and can ensure your backup center is properly protected. Download the full report to learn more.

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