Data Center: 10 Places You Don’t Want to Build

If you agree, or disagree with the order of our list, or would like to suggest additional location criteria, cast your vote/send your input.

1. Below sea level or in a floodplain
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), created by the U.S. Congress in 1968 created Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM). FIRMS show floodplains in the same way topographic maps show terrain. A 10-year floodplain can be expected to meet or exceed a given flood level every 10 years, a 100-year floodplain every 100 years, etc. FIRMs are accessible on the FEMA web site (address below). Input State, then County, then Community (cities or areas) and available maps are presented for review.

Moderate to Low Risk Areas (ideal for data centers)
B and X: between 100 and 500-year floodplains
C and X: above the 500-year flood zone (best)

High Risk (poor data center locations)
A: 1% chance of flooding in a given year with a 26% chance of flooding over 30 years
V: Coastal area with similar probabilities to “A”

Descriptions of FIRM designations (from the FEMA web site)

Map search (research the flood level of your data center on the FEMA web site)

2. In a location that suffers from frequent natural disasters
Between 1955 and 2004, Florida averaged 55 tornadoes (F3-F5) annually, according to NCDC (National Climactic Data Center). Texas averages 139 annually. By comparison, Virginia averages 10. Between 1851 and 2004, Texas experienced direct hits from 19 major (F3-F5) hurricanes (approximately 21% of total U.S. hits), according to NOAA memorandum NWS TPC-4. Florida experienced 35 major hurricane hits (approximately 38% of total U.S. hits). Virginia experienced a single F3 hurricane hit between 1851 and 2004.

Locations at highest risk for dangerous weather and are not ideally suited for data centers.

Images and maps
Figure 1: Hurricane Ike hits Texas coast in 2008
Figure 2: Hurricane Jeanne covers Florida in 2004
Figure 3: Map of hurricanes by state (1950-2008)
Figure 4: Map of tornadoes by state (1953-2004)
U.S. Mainland Hurricane Strikes by State, 1851-2004

more of the Black Swan article

Alex Carroll

Alex Carroll

Managing Member at Lifeline Data Centers
Alex, co-owner, is responsible for all real estate, construction and mission critical facilities: hardened buildings, power systems, cooling systems, fire suppression, and environmentals. Alex also manages relationships with the telecommunications providers and has an extensive background in IT infrastructure support, database administration and software design and development. Alex architected Lifeline’s proprietary GRCA system and is hands-on every day in the data center.
Alex Carroll