The Data Centre Conundrum – London vs the Rest of the Country

An industry viewpoint

by Roger Keenan, Managing Director at City Lifeline

Data centre colocation plays a significant role when it comes to housing today’s IT operations; and yes, for many small businesses it’s an attractive alternative to investing in building and maintaining a sizable space to house and operate power hungry servers, telecoms and network equipment. The notion of operating this equipment offsite brings with it many benefits, but the decision is not as clear-cut as that. There are a number of considerations to take into account when looking at colocation and one of the most deliberated is the issue of location. In reality, this comes down to one fundamental question: do I operate my IT and telecoms in London or elsewhere in the UK?

The Data Centre Conundrum - London vs the Rest of the CountryOf course, there are many valid arguments for both and often it will come down to evaluating what the real priority or reason for wanting to colocate is in the first place. We’ve all seen the articles that alarm even the most level-headed IT managers, emphasising the high concentration of data centres within Docklands and the London ‘ring of steel’ perimeter – this itself being a serious threat (from a terrorist perspective) to a business’s operating integrity. But on the other hand, London is renowned for having the best connectivity and physical accessibility for city-based businesses, which is perfect for colocation facilities.

Any large metropolitan area, and particularly London as the capital city, will always be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks than remote countryside destinations. Despite this, almost half of the entire UK population of data centres are in London. The reality is, we have to base all of our decisions on rational probability and weigh up the pros and cons – there are always advantages and disadvantages to any location, the key is to ensure you’re clued-up on the facts and examine what it is your business needs.

Taking a step back to put these considerations into perspective can really help if you are under pressure to make an informed choice and the right decision for your business. There are several key reasons why an SME will choose a data centre in London, and several reasons why it will not:

The attractions of the ‘big smoke’

  • Connectivity: London is the only place where a large multiplicity of international fibre-optic cables terminate; putting the city at a major advantage when it comes to carrier choice and latency.
  • Accessibility: many of London’s data centres will be within easy walking distance from underground stations or public transport, which for many city businesses means they can get to their equipment quickly and easily to install, upgrade and repair. And if things go wrong they can get there fast at any time of the day or night.
  • Community: Being close to others operating in London is a big advantage. Dark Fibre connections to other businesses or carriers are possible, and you can share experiences with many other like-minded people (over a beer?)– more so than in a rural location.

The pull of the countryside

  • Cost: with the coalition government proposing a 43 per cent hike in business energy bills, businesses will continue to look for opportunities to shave costs where they can. Choosing a data centre outside of London or even outside of the UK will have an impact on the price you pay, particularly if you need a lot of electrical power and cooling.
  • Lower risk: housing your equipment outside London is also thought by many to be a lower risk option for unpredictable terrorist attacks.
  • Newer purpose-built buildings: many data centres in remote locations are purpose-built rather than conversions and people are tempted by the idea of the look and feel of new premises.

It really is horses for courses but choosing the right location for your particular business is hugely important and making the wrong choice can lead to problems later down the line. As such, there are a number of questions that you should ask yourself before that decision is made:

  1. Check if the data centre in question is carrier-neutral. Any data centre, regardless of location, can give you an internet connection, but finding a building where you can use two different carriers with two separate routes (to different destinations) is more challenging, and adding telephony makes it even more so. Having a wider choice of carriers means you can deliver any national or world-wide routings you want. It also allows you to negotiate better prices as more than one carrier will be competing for your business.
  2. When latency is important micro-seconds matter. Really low-latency connections with a choice of carriers are currently only feasible in a central London location where you have many specialist carriers PoP’ing a colocation data centre set up to do just this.
  3. Physical accessibility – think about whether you need to be close to your equipment. It may even be an emotional thing that defies logic at the time, but if something goes wrong in the middle of the night can you get in your car and be there relatively quickly.
  4. Outside of London the choice of carriers is more limited (it’s much more expensive to dig up roads and lay fibre to a remote location). Price is always an important factor in the decision-making process but access and connectivity are also vital – make sure you balance quality against cost for your business.
  5. If there is a major terrorist incident, all of London is at risk but urban centres are also vulnerable. Mirroring (or duplicating) equipment in other locations is a key to protecting against the impact of terrorist threats.
  6. Think about the type of data centre you need: robot-like high security with little ‘human’ interaction, or the flexibility of ‘community’ to share knowledge and talk to others also using and managing the data centre.
  7. Does your selected data centre give you the option to hire and use meeting rooms, so you can talk to suppliers or colleagues or customers on site?
  8. What level of security do you require? Will you have the option of a private suite? Some data centres will provide a private suite that no one else can enter without your permission, nothing can be removed or touched and in some cases you can arrange that an outsider can’t physically see into the suite.

The list is endless, but when it comes to location the answers to these considerations will often very much help to determine what location (or indeed, type of data centre) is best for small business. Get this part right and you are less likely to experience unforeseen problems later down the line and more likely to ensure your IT and telecoms operations continue to run smoothly and seamlessly for the future.

About City Lifeline

City Lifeline is the leading independent carrier-neutral colocation data centre in central London. With some of the best connectivity in London, City Lifeline provides a secure, reliable and resilient home for telecoms, computer and server hosting. Lifeline House is situated in an ideal central London location with a wide choice of carriers connecting across the world. The data centre offers a first-class, flexible and personal service with the security, equipment, plant, services and engineers to match.

For further information about City Lifeline London colocation visit:

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