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What Is a Flood Zone, and What Should I Look for When Evaluating Data Centers?

John Huntington
February 27, 2014

There are many factors that can go into a company’s choice for an outsourced data center. From power density, to generator redundancy, to flood zone information, businesses have many factors to weigh in when deciding where they want to house their data for the foreseeable future.

An essential factor to consider when choosing a data center or data center service provider is flood zoning. As anyone seeking to outsource their data center knows, reliability is paramount when choosing a data center, and flooding can provide a large risk to data center uptime.

According to FEMA, the main provider of information about flood zones, “Flood zones are geographic areas that FEMA has defined according to varying levels of flood risk and type of flooding.” High-risk areas (i.e. Special Flood Hazard Areas, or SFHAs) have a 26 percent chance of flooding during a 30-year time period, while moderate and minimal risk areas are fairly safe from 1-percent-annual (100 year) and .2-percent-annual (500 year) floods. On the whole, the more likely a location is to flood—within the 100-year or 500-year flood plains—the worse location it is for a data center.

When evaluating data centers, lower-risk areas are always ideal, though there may be tradeoffs if that means being closer to critical business infrastructure. In locations closer to sea level, it may be inevitable to be closer to flood plains, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find providers whose data centers are outside the 100- and 500-year flood plains. Our NJR3 Telx Data Center, for example, is outside of the 100- and 500-year flood plain; there’s an annual probability of less than 1% that a flood will occur at that data center in a given year. The PTR1 Telx Data Center is outside of the 500-year flood plain—a very low-risk area.

There are certainly other factors to consider in looking for a data center—high generator redundancy and power density, for example, help mitigate risk at a given data center—but given the devastating effects that flooding can have on a data center, the flood zoning of the data center you choose is an essential factor to consider.

As we’ve spoken about in other blogs here at Telx, remembering to ensure that your data center is outside a flood zone is critical. Many data centers list that they are “above” a flood zone, which is often misinterpreted as having a high chance that you’ll be surrounded by water, but safe overall, in the event that a disaster like Sandy takes place again. One thing that only being above a flood zone misses is that maintenance and fuel transportation are essential after a flood; reliability takes more than just literally being above water. Telx specifically uses “outside” to talk about our proximity to flood zones—there’s no chance of misinterpretation with that terminology, and we want to remind customers that their data center and the surrounding infrastructure are very safe from flooding.

Here at Telx, we pride ourselves on world-class, reliable data centers, and we’ve carefully placed each data center in locations that mitigate risk of flooding and other natural disasters. When you use Telx as your data center service provider, you’ll get protection and connection to the world’s most demanding and critical of business infrastructure. To learn more about Telx’s data centers or about flood zoning and how that affects data center placement, contact us via the contact page of our site, or by Facebook or Twitter.

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