October 4, 2010

Host Location Series Part 4: Are More Data Centers Better?


Hostway Team

By Gail Seymour

In the introduction to this series of articles, we discussed data centers and some of the methods used to ensure continual availability of data for Web sites. We introduced the theory of redundancy and the importance of preventing a single point of failure; that is, having a single piece of equipment whose failure could bring down the whole system.

Multiple Data Centers Guard Against Natural Disasters

We looked at the ways in which every system, from the air conditioning and fire suppression systems to server configuration and power supplies were set up in such a way that there would have to be multiple failures before the system would be affected. In fact, with multiple power supplies and Internet connections, the data center is designed so that nothing short of a natural disaster should cause a loss of service.

Natural disasters do happen, though, and as we hinted at in that article, a good Web hosting company is prepared even for that eventuality. Backup servers and intrusion detection systems may be housed at a second, or multiple locations to monitor the data center, so that if it becomes compromised, or fails entirely, service can be moved to an alternative location, by means of a fail-over switch.

That’s the major benefit of choosing a Web hosting company with multiple data centers: because they have a more robust infrastructure, they are able to offer more solid uptime guarantees. So your Web site is less likely to go down when you may need it most.

Multiple Server Locations Enhance Website Performance

That’s not the only benefit though. As we discussed in the second and third articles of this series, the location of your servers is important. Download times can be reduced by hosting your Web site on a server that is local to the bulk of your customers, whether that means hosting in your own country or overseas.

Choosing a hosting company with multiple data centers located across the globe may mean you can request your site be hosted in a specific geographical location. That way you can take advantage of faster download speeds while still having the security of knowing that should that area be affected by natural disaster or catastrophic power failure, your site will still be available through backup servers located elsewhere.

As we will discuss in the final part of this series, there is another benefit to using a Web hosting company that uses multiple data centers, and that is the ability to deploy a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN connects the servers across multiple locations and duplicates content, so with a CDN your website can be served across continents to users around the globe from the servers closest to them. This effectively keeps download times to a minimum for all users, and gives your site both local access speeds and global stability at the same time.

Choosing a Web Host for Stability

Another reason to look for a hosting company that has multiple Data Centers spread across the continents is for stability. The company is likely to have offices and sales staff in most regions, too, meaning sales are more globally balanced, so an economic slump in one region is less likely to cause them to go bust, leaving you either with a new Web host or no host at all.

You also know they have already invested heavily in the architecture of the system, and are likely to continue to build better and faster, as technology that is more reliable becomes available.

About the Author

Gail Seymour has been a Web site designer for more than 10 years. During that time she has won three design awards and has provided the content and copy for dozens of Web sites and more than 50,000 Web pages.

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