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

February 27, 2014
John Huntington

There are many factors that can go into a company's choice for an outsourced data centre. 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 centre or data centre service provider is flood zoning. As anyone seeking to outsource their data centre knows, reliability is paramount when choosing a data centre, and flooding can provide a large risk to data centre 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, whilst 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 centre.

When evaluating data centres, 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 centres are outside the 100- and 500-year flood plains. Our NJR3 Telx Data Centre, 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 centre in a given year. The PTR1 Telx Data Centre 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 centre-high generator redundancy and power density, for example, help mitigate risk at a given data centre-but given the devastating effects that flooding can have on a data centre, the flood zoning of the data centre 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 centre is outside a flood zone is critical. Many data centres 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 dungaree, 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 centre and the surrounding infrastructure are very safe from flooding.

Here at Telx, we pride ourselves on world-class, reliable data centres, and we've carefully placed each data centre in locations that mitigate risk of flooding and other natural disasters. When you use Telx as your data centre 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 centres or about flood zoning and how that affects data centre placement, contact us via the contact page of our site, or by Facebook or Twitter.

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