An MIT Technology Review article states just 0.5 percent of all global data – including email, VoIP content, location content and corporate data – is currently analysed. In addition to specific company needs, the proliferation of the Internet of Things and cloud apps such as Office 365 are huge drivers in data growth in general.

Companies need more and more computational and storage power to properly manage all this data. Added to this, major infrastructure investments from the likes of Microsoft, Google and Amazon are also driving the boom in mega data centers. But data centers are capital investment heavy – Google’s recently-built Dublin facility cost in the region of €75m, with data from property advisor CBRE showing that $9 billion was invested in data centers on a global level in 2014 alone.

Few organisations have this kind of capital to invest in their own bespoke, datacenters. But companies still need fast, reliable and often local hosting, so in light of these growing demands, many organisations have turned to colocation data centers. Whilst companies own the physical assets in colocation facilities, they will lease the access to the infrastructure and connectivity..

In addition, they gain the expertise of the data center staff, and the security measures that provide both physical security in the secure premises as well as software backups and maintenance. Owning the assets in a controlled and safe environment provides the peace of mind and physical reassurance that many companies demand.

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Read ”Postcards from the edge” – Thinkstock

Going ‘local’ creates flexibility for growth

But catering for this increased demand can also be difficult – few providers have the ability to simply build out additional sites in ‘greenfield’ areas. Consequently, many companies are waking up to the possibility of using ‘local’ or ‘edge’ data centers. These data centers are based in close proximity to customers, often in ‘alternative’ facilities, enabling lower latency and easier access, which is especially important to services such as high frequency trading or streaming of HD video.

These ‘alternative’ facilities are often existing assets. For example, telephone exchanges make perfect data centers. They have the physical assets needed to connect to the network; the storage racks for the servers; the security to deter outside intrusion; and the on-site expertise to run efficient networks.

For the customer who is focused on ‘the journey to the cloud,’ a colocation facility nearby can help them become more agile and cost-effective, without sacrificing the stable operational state of their IT network. It can also help them migrate to a fully managed service operation further down the line if needs dictate.

These facilities are usually very flexible in the support that they provide; colocation providers usually offer “remote hands” support, but some companies prefer to give their own staff access to servers for routine maintenance and uptime tasks. The close physical proximity also provides peace of mind, with a company knowing that their servers are only a short distance away; for example, financial companies, for whom a data outage can cost billions of pounds in lost revenues, find this particularly reassuring for instance.

Edge colocation facilities are also critical in supporting the growth in smart cities, which generate a lot of data, including information on traffic flows, people movements, train and tram information, delays and disruptions, etc. Having local data centers provides a quick and easy remedy for storing and utilising the information.

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Read “Lost at sea”, on the demise of Safe Harbor – Thinkstock / PaulFleet

Data sovereignty

Local colocation facilities can also help to offset the problem of data integrity. The ripples from the Edward Snowden revelations are still spreading outwards and enterprises are now much more sensitive about what might happen to their data. The Safe Harbour ruling, where US companies could ‘self-certify’ the safety of EU citizens’ data, is no longer in operation. The likes of Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft etc., must now strike model contract clauses in each case, providing a written guarantee that European data is safe from the prying eyes of an overseas government or security services.

But even within the EU, there is no single common market when it comes to data protection at this time. Across the 26 territories, there are different regulatory authorities and separate layers of data regulation in each country. It makes data integrity and sovereignty an increasingly difficult area to navigate.

Edge colocation is a solution because it delivers low latency and helps maintain data residency options. By keeping data local, companies are able to keep a check on their assets, keep a lid on costs and control their physical assets.

Whilst the growth in data continues to expand, it would be over-simplistic to say that there is one kind of data center for all organisational needs. Edge colocation provides a flexible solution for local needs, providing services, speed and security on a scale and at a price suitable for regional markets. In turn, this helps organisations to meet the demands of their customers as and when needed, enabling them to become more streamlined without compromising on quality or reliability – as well as helping them on the journey to cloud.

Steve Weiner is a senior product manager at CenturyLink