The concept of cloud computing has made people believe that if the data is easily accessible through the cloud, the location of data centers doesn’t really matter. However, the physical location of the computer servers plays a crucial role in the overall performance of the software or application.
In this article we do a deep dive into the importance of data location in cloud computing and all the related concepts, including data centers, data locality, colocation, cloud computing vs local computing, and more.
Let’s start with the basics: data centers.
A data center is a physical space that contains networked computers, servers, computing resources, and storage systems for an organization. Other key components of a data center include switches, firewalls, routers, environmental controls, and application delivery controllers.
Data centers enable organizations to organize, store and process large amounts of data. Companies also use data centers to store their key applications that are critical to their functioning. The data center services, systems, and stored data are essential for an organization's everyday operations. You may find a data center with only a signal server, or they can be complex, consisting of thousands of servers on racks.
Some companies have their own data centers, often called on-premise data centers or local data centers, while some use cloud services where data is stored in the cloud and applications run off-premises.
When it comes to a cloud data center, the cloud service provider manages the actual hardware, and the clients or companies manage and run their data and applications in a virtual infrastructure that runs on the cloud servers.
Now that you know what a data center is, another key concept to understand is data locality.
Data locality is the process of moving computation to data rather than moving data to the computation, which takes too much time and causes network congestion.
Data locality improves system throughput. Moving gigabytes of data between systems and nodes consumes massive bandwidth and time and slows down other operations. Data locality solves this issue by moving lighter processing code to the data rather than moving large amounts of data through the network and then processing it.
Data locality is important for Big Data processing as it makes parallelizing and scaling the processing easy.
With the cloud, you can access data and information online from anywhere over the internet. This means you don’t have to depend on resources located at a particular location. However, server location and cloud location still matter.
So, why does location matter?
Data centers can get damaged by natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, and fire. Although we can't control natural disasters, some regions are at higher risk. Data centers located in areas prone to flooding or natural disasters are more prone to damage, so it’s best to avoid such areas when it comes to choosing data center locations. Additionally, it’s recommended to avoid areas that often experience hail and thunderstorms because they can affect the data center’s power supply or the network.
Similarly, data centers shouldn't be located in regions that are politically unstable because there is a higher risk of physical attacks.
Another reason that the location of data centers and servers is important is because it affects the speed at which the websites hosted on those servers load. This, in turn, affects the performance of the websites or web apps and directly impacts conversion rate – users usually leave a mobile website if its pages take longer than three seconds to load.
When cloud services are close to the local users, it reduces network latency caused by long connections.
To learn more, check out our detailed guide to latency.
Power and energy costs make up around 65 to 70 percent of the data center’s total operating costs. And these costs vary from area to area. This means it’s important to choose a location for data centers where power and energy are inexpensive. For example, a data center in the middle of Manhattan, New York, would cost more in rent and power than a data center in a rural area.
Additionally, data centers should be located near the area where they are getting their power supply from as it minimizes the issues related to transmission.
Before discussing how you can benefit from co-location, let’s first discuss colocation data centers and the definition of colocation..
A colocation data center, also called a colo, co-location, or "carrier hotel," is a facility where a business or company rents data center space for their servers and computing and network hardware. The colocation service provider offers space, power, cooling, bandwidth, and physical security, while the company provides its servers and hardware housed in the co-located data center. This means colocation data center companies don’t rent out physical servers; the organization or business owns them.
Businesses usually use a co-located data center if they don't have the resources to manage and maintain their own data center, or they simply don't want the hassle of building and maintaining their own data centers. Colocation service providers lease capacities by rack, room, cage, or cabinet. Businesses can scale up or scale down rack space, bandwidth, or other features as per their requirements.
Basically, colocation means that the servers and other hardware of several different companies are colocated in one shared data center. Many companies also choose to house their servers in three or four different co-located data centers. This is usually the best choice for an organization that has many physical offices in different locations and wants to reduce latency and server upkeep costs by having their servers and computer systems located near their offices.
Renting the space for your IT hardware in a colocation data center is far more economical than building and managing your own data center. With colocation data centers, you don't need to install cabling to connect with service providers, hire security guards, or purchase cooling or power backup equipment. The service provider manages all of that.
However, if your company requires a large amount of space, building your own data center may be more economical. But remember to keep the importance of the data center’s location in mind.
With colocation data centers, you get more than the built-in benefits like physical security and cooling equipment—you also get to choose your desired location of the data center. This means you can rent a colocation center that is near your end users to reduce latency and improve performance. For example, having a data center on each continent provides fast response times and good user experience to a global user base.
Colocation can be helpful when you’re shifting to the cloud. You can move your IT infrastructure to an offsite colocation facility that offers better capacity and performance to help with your business needs and ensures a smooth transition to the cloud.
With colocation centers, you can quickly expand your infrastructure and add hardware and other equipment as your business grows. On the other hand, if your IT infrastructure is housed in a small local data center, expanding can be difficult and expensive.
An emerging data center model has been developed by Ridge in which existing data center infrastructure is federated into a unified network. A single API accesses all available resources on the Ridge Network. Application owners can choose to deploy their services in any of these locations, called Resource Pools.
Ridge does not own any of these data centers, but partners with their owners to provide cloud services. Each partner owns one or more cloud offerings that supply infrastructure resources to Ridge customers as part of Ridge’s global ecosystem.
Although every data center and cloud service provider offers a customized technology stack of its own, the Ridge distributed data center ecosystem can easily and rapidly turn any partner into a Point of Presence (PoP) in Ridge’s cloud platform. When working on Ridge Cloud, a developer becomes agnostic to the specific stack technology of each data center <explain how>. Developers need only to interact with a single API in order to deploy their applications locally and to leverage Ridge’s cloud-native services, such as managed Kubernetes, containers, and object storage
When it comes to choosing cloud storage versus local storage, there are quite a few differences between cloud storage and local servers. Both offer benefits, so many companies use hybrid cloud storage, which is a mix of both on-premises infrastructure and public and private clouds.
Cloud storage refers to the process where you store data in an online space over several servers. The cloud offers an off-site storage solution maintained by a service provider.
With cloud storage, you can access information like files and apps via the internet. In other words, you can access data and information stored in data centers over the internet from anywhere with an internet connection. For example, if you're away from your office and you want to attend an online meeting, you can instantly access your files from your home.
Cloud storage also helps with better collaboration among team members as it allows teams to work together online on the same documents, add comments, etc. Additionally, in cloud storage, there are multiple backups for your data in the data centers of the cloud storage provider.
Another huge benefit of cloud storage is that you don’t need to buy or maintain any hardware, which means cost savings. You also don't need to purchase cooling systems to protect your hardware. With cloud storage, you pay for monthly or yearly subscriptions.
Local storage refers to on-premise physical servers and storage devices, such as hard drives, flash drives, solid-state drives (SSDs), local file servers, or discs. Companies relying on local storage usually have their own data centers.
If you want to access data with local storage, you need physical access to the storage devices. However, local storage offers better speed when it comes to accessing the data because you're not dependent on your internet bandwidth. You can access information stored in local storage a lot faster compared to downloading it from the cloud.
There is no direct answer to which is the better choice between cloud storage and local storage—it depends on your use case.
Cloud storage is a good option for small- and medium-sized businesses with limited budgets as cloud storage is based on subscription plans and relies on third-party cloud storage companies to cover upkeep costs. Additionally, cloud storage offers several productivity features that are helpful in growing your business. Local storage, on the other hand, works great for big organizations and businesses with big storage infrastructure and internal technical teams to deal with any problems and issues.
Many companies use hybrid storage, depending on their budget and type of data, to reap the benefits of both cloud and local storage.
Local cloud is a cloud service provided and managed by a third party that runs on-premises. The cloud service provider provides physical infrastructure, software, and the local cloud server.
Many companies use both to benefit from both local and cloud backup solutions. However, there is a large difference between cloud and local backup. Local backup, also called on-premises backup, is when you back up your data, system, and applications to a local device. In contrast, cloud backup refers to a service that a company uses to back up its data, system, and application in a cloud-based server.
When it comes to local vs cloud server, the key difference is that the cloud server is remote, usually located in remote data centers, and you access it over the internet. In contrast, a local server is a server that you purchase and own physically on-premises.