Environmental Risk: Considerations for Data Center Site Selection

Security, bandwidth, uptime, and efficiency are all vital in Data Center management. When the time comes to select a partner site for colocation and disaster recovery, these should be considered. But what about protection from environmental occurrences? Mitigating risk from events that are beyond anyone’s control should also be on your checklist of Data Center site required criteria. Here are some of the most important environmental factors to keep in mind:


Natural Disasters

As a CTO or IT decision maker, you rely on dependability. The overwhelming wild card can be Mother Nature. Nature’s whims can create stress and dramatic issues for Data Centers. During your site selection it is critical to be aware of the natural disasters common to the area. Here are some of the bigger ones that have historically wreaked havoc on communities and data centers alike.



hurricanes and data centers
Source: Weather Channel

As major storms over the past few years, including Sandy and Katrina, have shown, the power stored in a hurricane unleashed on humanity can have dire consequences for individuals, communities and business.

A storm is categorized as a hurricane when a tropical cyclone has a sustained wind of over 74 miles per hour. In the United States, they only happen along the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard. The official US season for hurricanes is May 15th through November 30th.

Beyond the tragic loss of life, the total costs paint a picture of vulnerability for Data Centers located in the hurricane belt. According to the NY Times, the financial cost of Katrina was $148 Billion and Sandy was $78 Billion.

Due to the proximity to the levers of finance, an East Coast location for primary servers may be mandatory. It is always a good idea to have your disaster recovery or colocation servers in a different geographical zone.


tornados and data centers
Source: NOAA Storm Prediction Center Statistics

Here in Kansas, people tend to think we travel around the region by jumping from one tornado to the next. Did you know the state with the most tornadoes is actually Florida?

The warm, moist air of the Gulf of Mexico combined with the cold air from Canada and the Rocky Mountains and the dry warm air of the Sonoran Desert can create the perfect conditions for the formation of tornadoes. “Tornado Alley” as it has been dubbed runs from Texas to Minnesota.

For Data Center’s located in this region it is essential to choose a hardened facility that was designed to withstand at least an F5 tornado.

Here at Cavern Technologies, under 125 feet of limestone, our customer’s servers are inoculated from the impact that tornadoes have on other Data Centers in the region. Even the US Government has realized the security of the underground environment with the National Archives being housed in our same cave system.


earthquakes and data centers
Source: NOAA Storm Prediction Center Statistics

As the East Coast of the United States has Hurricanes, the West Coast has earthquakes. For Data Centers located in these zones, “Earthquake Proofing” your facility is an option.

Seismic design, incorporated into new and retrofitted buildings in earthquake prone zones, help to ameliorate the deleterious and potentially life threatening effects of earthquakes. Rightly so, building codes have been developed to protect the human inhabitants of a building, and prevent collapse. The priority in such generational seismic events is the preservation of people.

Used in Japan successfully, seismic isolation technology, like earthquake gliders for servers is an alternative to rigid bolting and increases the likelihood servers will survive a seismic event.

Of note for Data Center locations is the common byproduct of severe earthquakes – fire. The warm winds from Southern California can quickly spread fires, where overstressed fire departments and broken water lines make putting them out a challenge.

Mission critical data in these regions should be backed up in areas where earthquake danger is not ever-present.

Due to its significant distance from the New Madrid fault line, the greater Kansas City area and Cavern Technologies has very little threat from earthquakes.


With back-up generators and fuel stored in basements of Data Centers located in New Jersey high-rises, Sandy highlighted another vulnerability – flooding. While flooding can happen in all 50 states, how you protect yourself from water is an essential area to study in Data Center site selection. Data Centers should be out of the floodplain, and away from dams and levees, and out of tsunami zones.

Although underground, Cavern is located at the second highest point in Johnson County, Kansas, well above the floodplain. And being the geographical center of the country, Cavern is outside of tsunami zones.

Ice and Snow

Ice, which can weigh on trees and break branches, has the potential to cause outages. Making sure trees are away from electric infrastructure is a good practice. Ensuring your back-up generator is located in an ice-free environment will secure that redundancy.

For above-ground facilities, the weight of snow is a threat to the Data Center due to potential of a roof collapse. Just 24 inches of snow can weigh 17 pounds per square foot. So a roof the size of a football field (300 feet x 150 feet) would have 765,000 pounds of snow on it after a 24-inch accumulation. With the average US car weighing 4,000 pounds, that would be the equivalent of 190 cars parked on the roof.

At Cavern we offer huge piece-of-mind as our roof is 125 feet of limestone. In addition, all of our back-up generators are underground, therefore 100% protected from the ice and snow.

Do Your Homework

A comprehensive site selection process should take into account all these factors. For more insight on mitigating risk from natural disasters or to tour Cavern Technologies’ state-of-the-art underground facility, visit our Solutions Center.

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