In recent years, we’ve seen a huge boom in the number of businesses – both big and small – looking to invest in Nordic data centers. Perhaps the two most recognizable names to build facilities in and around the “Node Pole” are Google, which opened a huge data center in Hamina on Finland’s southern coastline, and Facebook, that opened its first data center outside the US in Luleå, Sweden.
The rush to locate these facilities near the Arctic Circle is no coincidence. Cheap, reliable and renewable energy keeping operational costs down has been a decisive factor. Google uses seawater from the Bay of Finland to cool the servers that are working hard delivering search results to our online queries thousands of miles away. In many cases, the temperature of the air that blows naturally around the center is low enough to cool the servers, a much more cost-effective alternative to energy-hungry conventional cooling systems.
The cost of powering the hardware is also cheaper. In nearby Iceland, with a population of less that 350,000, almost all of the country’s power is generated by hydro or geothermal methods, which are still nowhere near capacity. This means that the country generates more power per capita than anywhere else and the cost of electricity is amongst the lowest in the world.
Some people might think of the Nordics as a remote outpost. But that’s far from the truth. Finland (2nd) and Sweden (3rd) ranked in the top three of the 2016 World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index (NRI), which measures the maturity of a country’s connectivity.
Residents in this part of the world were also early adopters of data centers and related infrastructure, providing companies that invest there with a ready-made, highly skilled local work force.
So, while the relative advantages vary from country to country – Denmark has higher energy costs than Sweden, for example, but it does have a geographical edge for shorter lower-latency connections to the south – conditions across the Nordic and Baltic regions are good for data centers.
But how do smaller operators convince customers to migrate their data north and how can they steal a march on their larger rivals?
Let’s look at it from the point of view of enterprises in the rest of Europe. If you’re a business in Berlin or Paris, what would it take to make you break out of your metropolitan comfort zone and move your data to chillier, more remote locations?
Being able to access provision tailor-made to your needs is an attractive proposition. Bigger web-scale competitors are only able to offer a highly standardized service. However, smaller operators can provide you with bespoke packages, filling their data centers with server and storage devices to suit your requirements.
As an enterprise, customers depend on your reliability and knowledge that the personal data they provide you with is kept safe. And that’s another reason smaller data centers deserve consideration. They find it much easier to provide the requisite back-up process for hosting mission-critical data. By creating twin data center topologies around 200km away from each other, smaller providers are able to deliver rigorous Tier 3 and Tier 4 services to guarantee improved availability. Add to this the fact that these data center services can cost up to 50% less than their counterparts in major European cities and you’re not only getting a better service but making a significant financial saving too.
By choosing a smaller data center you also have access to a unique connectivity solution and a scalable connectivity strategy. Data can be encrypted at the physical layer, making it highly secure, and low-latency transport of data from meet-me rooms to hosting locations means customers won’t notice a delay in services as your business grows. What’s more, many small off-shore data centers include a convenient “shuttle-bus” in the service package.
And Nordic data centers also have another option. Instead of competing with the larger players in the area, they could choose to join forces with them. If newer hosting companies with lower cost of ownership get together with incumbent strategic outsourcing companies, they can create a win-win situation. In a situation where everything is already consolidated, the smaller operator could help the larger player to offer services and cloud access cheaper.
It’s clear that small data centers are at a pivotal point in their history. They must grasp the opportunity to demonstrate their worth to enterprises with both hands. They should use their size and cold conditions to welcome big business with a warm embrace; providing them with cost-effective, reliable and bespoke services that bigger data centers are unable to provide alone.