Can You Build Your Own Data Center?


Modern businesses are increasingly relying on data to make decisions, analyze situations, and produce better customer interactions. With so much data being collected, organized, and drawn from on a regular basis, you might be tempted to build your own data center. But is it really feasible for a small- to mid-sized business to accomplish this?

The Process

Let’s take a look at the actual process you’ll use to build your data center.

  • Evaluate your needs. First, you’ll need to figure out exactly what type of data center you’ll need, and how much demand you’re going to put on it. You should know approximately how much data you’ll need to store, as well as how many people are going to access it (and when they’re going to access it). This will tell you what kind of hardware to get, and how you need to manage your systems in the future.
  • Buy the hardware. Next, you’ll need to buy your hardware. There are several components to consider here, including desktops, servers, server racks, hard drives, tape drives, routers, switches, modems, firewalls, and cables. You may also need printers, keyboards, mouses, and scanners. With thousands of options available, these can be hard decisions to make.
  • Establish power. Your data center won’t run without power. Establishing a main power line with core power generators is necessary before you get much further. You’ll also need uninterrupted power supplies (UPSs) to ensure that your data center is never without power for too long.
  • Establish cooling. Data centers generate a lot of heat, and that heat can compromise the lifespan and integrity of your hardware. You’ll also need to spend time developing a cooling system to keep everything operational.
  • Find the right location. You can’t shove your data center into a back closet. If you don’t already have a dedicated space for your data center, you’ll need to find one, buying or leasing it.
  • Protect your center. Don’t forget to establish a procedure for backing up your data. Your data center will be vulnerable to many kinds of attacks and disasters, so make sure it’s protected.
  • Grow and maintain. Finally, you’ll need to establish protocols for regularly maintaining your hardware, inspecting it for any damage and making changes or additions as needed. Over the course of your business’s growth, you’ll probably find yourself with even more data needs, so have a plan for data center expansion.

The Costs

The costs for building a data center vary wildly depending on the materials you use and your ultimate goals, but generally, you can count on at least $200 per square foot of space you use. Depending on how much space you have, your current access to materials, and your needs, this could ultimately range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

On top of that, you’ll also need to consider the costs of ongoing maintenance. For most data centers, you’ll need at least one full-time person in charge of managing your hardware, making repairs, and conducting maintenance. For larger operations, you might need a whole team of dedicated workers.

The Risks

There are also some risks to doing things yourself, beyond paying far more money than you would for an out-of-the-box solution. For example, if you build your data center yourself, you’ll be prone to making far more errors than you would otherwise; a crossed wire or a misplaced piece of hardware could corrupt your stored data. And if you aren’t backing up all that data properly, all it would take is a single hack or a single disaster to wipe out your entire system. Once it’s gone, you’ll be hard-pressed to get it back.

The Alternatives

So if building your own data center isn’t feasible, what other options are there?

The biggest and most popular option is to go with a third-party data services provider. In the long run, third-party data providers are less expensive than building your own centers, unless your company has reached a size and scale that allows you to build and run those centers with incredible efficiency. Working with a third-party is also highly scalable, since you’ll be able to start with a basic option and grow to something more sophisticated over time. Best of all, you’ll delegate the accountability for your data’s protection and backup to an authority who knows more about it, so you can rest assured that your data is safe.

The Bottom Line

So is it possible to build your own data center on a limited budget? The short answer is yes, but it’s more complicated (and more expensive) than you might imagine. Make sure you run a cost comparison on all your available options before you rely entirely on a data center you’ve constructed yourself.