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How important is the location of your cloud data centres?

Where are your cloud data centres located?

Johannesburg, 28 Aug 2020
Read time 5min 40sec

It might not seem like the most pressing question, but, in fact, the location of data centres often has serious implications for businesses.

BBD – a software development specialist firm – is well-acquainted with the issue of cloud data centres. BBD has many years of experience managing cloud infrastructures and helping clients make the best decisions when it comes to their data. Deciding on a location for a cloud data centre is a complex task, involving careful consideration and the weighing up of multiple factors.

What is a cloud data centre? In short, it’s a way of storing your company’s data and applications off-premises, hosted by a cloud services provider like AWS, Google or Azure. “We take a cloud-agnostic approach when it comes to providers and help our clients migrate or re-host using any of these – finding the solution that best fits their environment and operational needs,” explains Clayton York, a cloud network specialist at BBD.

“Often, we’re asked about locally based data centres.” Does it make sense to choose a data centre in a region that’s applicable to your customer base? What are the pros and cons of this? In some cases, is there even a choice?

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a location for your cloud data, and a look at the challenges you might face.

Why use a cloud data centre that’s local to your company?

York is well-versed in the importance of cloud data centre locations. He says the legalities around data sovereignty is the main reason to consider storing your data in the same region as your company.

Many regions of the world now have their own data privacy laws to contend with – from Europe’s GDPR to California’s CCPA. These country/region-specific regulations define how data must be collected, processed, stored and the needed consent from the data subject. Because companies need to comply with these regulations when storing data, having a data centre in a region whose data sovereignty regulations you’re unfamiliar with can result in unintended missteps and leave your company open to a host of legal issues and penalties.

It’s important to take the time to familiarise yourself with the applicable data laws relevant in the region you’re considering so as to avoid complications.

For York, based in South Africa, the relevant legislation is the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI). This states that South African companies collecting the personal data of South African customers must store that data within the borders of the country.

York says he sees the biggest benefit of using a local data centre as being able to more easily comply with legislation requirements for company data to reside within the borders of South Africa by aligning workloads to applicable data centres belonging to certain cloud providers, such as AWS.

This ensures enterprise-grade security, capability and reliability while complying with POPI, government agencies and municipalities. This combination, according to York, is crucial for BBD’s clients to feel comfortable about storing their data both on the cloud and within the country.

Why use a data centre that’s local to your customers?

York observes that the second biggest factor in locating your data centres, after regulatory concerns, is the latency from the cloud-hosted services to end-users.

Latency determines the delay between when a data transfer is initiated, and when the transfer actually begins. Lots of applications heavily rely on latency to function effectively – audio and video streaming services and ICT services are two prominent examples. This means a data centre based physically closer to customers can result in a faster and more reliable overall service, helping you deliver a better customer experience. Other examples include in the financial sector, where every fraction of a second can be crucial, and anything that mitigates delays is highly sought-after.

Latency can also be a reason to have a data centre local to the company. For example, companies migrating to the cloud also often run a hybrid solution requiring a VPN connection from on-premises to their public cloud.

VPNs can increase latency by introducing extra travel time for requests and responses. All communication over a VPN is encrypted and the encryption process takes time, depending on the type of encryption used.

With more people actively working away from the office, having a local data centre can help improve employee efficiency by negating time wasted waiting for data to pull down from the cloud.

So, how important is physical location when it comes to latency? The answer is not as much as it used to be, but it’s still a factor.

Data centres located in the same regions as your customers, instead of thousands of kilometres away and potentially in another country, can provide the small advantage of speed that in many industries makes a significant difference.

Things to keep in mind

Drawing on his experience, York points out that it’s important to make sure all the required cloud services are actually available in your chosen region. Sometimes, newly launched regions don’t offer all the services upfront.

In terms of cost, York adds that there are cost disparities between hosting data in different regions. With a depth of knowledge into all things cloud, the experts at BBD can help you understand the balance between the benefits of a data centre in a certain region versus the potential additional costs. The costs and challenges involved vary greatly from region to region, so it’s worth taking the time to consider how necessary it is to host your data in a certain place before making a decision.

“We have a wealth of experience helping companies manage and maintain cloud infrastructure, including security, cost optimisation, computing, storage and more.” BBD has recently partnered with AWS, launching a specialised managed cloud service offering, MServ, for organisations large and small.

Whether looking to migrate your cloud environment closer to where your company is located or spread it out according to where your consumers sit, BBD can help devise a cloud solution that best suits your business strategy. 

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