Much as we might like to think that the Internet exists somewhere out there in the proverbial cloud, there is a real physical infrastructure underlying everything on the Net. (For a visual tour of the journey of a single bit, see this Wired article: http://www.wired.com/magazine/ff_internetplaces/all/) And sometimes, when things go awry in the physical world, the damage can have a real effect on the Internet. Case in point: the websites of Gawker, the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and MarketWatch were all knocked offline by Hurricane Sandy. As of the time of this blog post, nearly 24 hours after the “frankenstorm” made landfall, Gawker is still down.
Gawker’s main data center is located in New York City, which raises the question: why would anyone locate a data center there? In the past decade or so, New York City has seen a major terrorist attack, not to mention several serious weather events, including Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. Why not locate instead in, say, Kansas?
IO, a data center infrastructure design company, makes it clear that while environmental threats are one item to consider when selecting where to locate a data center, there are several other important criteria as well (http://www.iodatacenters.com/blog/selecting-the-best-data-center-location/):
- Quality of local utilities
- Proximity to telecom carriers
- Skilled employee base
- Physical space available
New York City would probably score highly on proximity to telecom carriers and skilled employee base, but very poorly on taxes and the threat of environmental or man-made destruction, which makes me wonder about Gawker’s decision.
Google has chosen to distribute its U.S. data centers across the country (http://www.google.com/about/datacenters/inside/locations/):
The New York Times has an excellent graphic on the risk of natural disasters in the U.S. Notably (but not surprisingly), Google’s data centers are well-distributed. It is unlikely that any two would be offline at the same time for the same reason (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/05/01/weekinreview/01safe.html):
Maybe Gawker should think about relocating to Kansas after all.