The Pros and Cons of Underground Data Centers

December 22, 2021

Data is a vital resource that businesses rely on in the increasingly digital world. Collecting and storing data within one network is an invaluable tool, but it’s not without risk. Data centers are the solution for storing sensitive information in a safe and reliable facility.

To obtain the ultimate level of protection, some companies are taking their data centers underground. Subterranean facilities achieve unique features that aren’t possible on the surface. Underground data centers could be the way of the future.

What Are Underground Data Centers?

Data centers are robust facilities that store valuable information networks for businesses and other organizations in a physical location. These buildings often contain rows of computer systems and IT equipment that are vital to their daily operations. As a result, data centers must be secure, reliable and efficient.

Underground data centers achieve the same purpose from below the Earth’s surface. Companies are building their facilities in retired limestone mines and caves to optimize their IT operations. Surrounded by solid rock with only one or two protected entrances, it’s clear why underground data centers are an appealing prospect. The inherent security is just one benefit that’s drawing more companies to underground data bunkers. However, organizations should consider many other aspects before opening a subterranean facility.

The Pros of Underground Data Centers

Underground data centers have natural benefits that are appealing for critical information storage. Firms should consider these underground data center pros:

1. Rapid Construction

A crucial component to constructing data centers is building a sturdy exterior to house the facility. Underground spaces already have a defined outer shell, which saves time and money. Contractors can develop the interior almost immediately. Above-ground properties are also constrained by complicated zoning and regulations that require time-consuming permit applications and extensive paperwork. Underground structures often need only a single permit, allowing contractors to complete the work quickly. Time is money, so high speed is extremely valuable.

2. Project Savings

Above-ground data centers are often built from scratch, starting with the foundation and exterior structure. In solid stone caves and mining shafts, the exterior shell already exists. This advantage reduces construction costs significantly.

On the surface, organizations build data centers to withstand harsh weather and natural disasters. Underground structures are naturally protected to save even more money.

3. Natural Protection

Subterranean data centers are 100 feet or more below the surface. The surrounding rock protects the facility from a multitude of natural disasters. Tornadoes, hurricanes and even earthquakes have almost zero effect on underground data bunkers. Although they’re inside the Earth, quakes and tremors are typically only felt on the surface. The natural material braces the facility and holds it in place.

4. Consistent Temperature

Lower temperatures are essential for storing sensitive computer equipment. Depending on the location, most above-ground data centers are combatting rising global temperatures with costly cooling systems. In contrast, layers of organic material insulate underground properties to keep them naturally cool. The stable climate leads to greater energy efficiency for your cooling system. Above-ground facilities spend a large portion of their budget on air conditioning, so moving underground can reduce operating costs significantly.

5. Advanced Security

Protecting your data is vital to your business’s success and your customers’ safety. The most significant underground data center benefit is the unmatched security it can provide. The facility is surrounded by thick rock, leaving only a few entrances to thwart potential intruders. The built-in security will protect the data center from the outside, so you can focus your attention and resources on fending off digital threats online.

The Cons of Underground Data Centers

Underground data bunkers have many advantages over traditional digital storage facilities, but they also have unique challenges. Firms must likewise consider these underground data center cons:

1. Space Restrictions

With an above-ground building, expanding your facility is relatively easy. Underground properties are bound to their original size. Extending the square footage is costly and often impossible. Altering the existing space could impact the structural integrity.

If your underground network expands beyond the limitations of the space, you might have to consider moving your entire operation. Another alternative would be to open an additional facility in another location. To ensure you have room to innovate and grow, find an underground property with extra space to expand.

2. Abnormal Configurations

In addition to size restrictions, architects must also accommodate large stone columns that support the facility. When you’re storing large, square equipment, rounded edges and sloped floors can cause challenges. With careful planning, you can still utilize a large portion of the space for your equipment.

3. Complex Ventilation

Underground properties typically have existing ventilation systems, especially if they were initially built for mining purposes. However, these systems may not be developed enough for the equipment you intend to install. Data servers are sensitive to high temperatures, so you may have to invest in a more advanced ventilation system to keep them cool. The naturally low temperatures will make it easier to maintain a stable climate.

4. Staff Safety

Underground properties have fewer access points — usually only one or two. While this is extremely valuable for maintaining a secure data center, it can be dangerous for staff members in an emergency.

However, the number of staff members required to run the facility at one time is reasonably low. For example, a large data center requires only 157 staff members, including day and night shifts. A small crew could safely evacuate from only a few exit points.

Is an Underground Data Center Right for You?

In 2020, the U.S. invested $1 billion into data center real estate to meet rising demand. If your organization is planning to invest in data centers, an underground network might be worth considering. The construction costs are often far less than above-ground facilities. The built-in solid rock shell also shortens the construction timeline significantly. If speed to market is vital for your business, an underground facility could be the solution.

The subterranean temperatures could also save on operating costs. The naturally cool climate reduces the need for constant air conditioning. In an industry requiring a lot of power, an underground data center could help reduce energy consumption.

Underground data networks have built-in security to protect your critical information. Plus, your computers and other IT equipment are safe from natural disasters and other physical threats. Subterranean data centers are secure, reliable and efficient facilities for storing valuable information.

Optimizing Your Data Centers With DataSpan

Moving your operations below ground is a substantial undertaking. DataSpan can help you streamline your infrastructure and management techniques to optimize your underground facility. We’ll provide custom solutions for any challenge, from equipment maintenance and building upgrades to IT operations.

Contact us today to speak with our highly qualified specialists.

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