Is it economically sound to have a server room in your office rather than a data centre because you wanted to save money? Or are your servers costing you more than you realise?

On premise or off premise?

There are multiple reasons a business might opt to locate a server room in the office. Whatever those reasons, cost is usually one of them. Smaller businesses, particularly start-ups, need to be mindful of the bottom line. This becomes even more pertinent as the business endeavours to break through critical barriers to growth. But what if your server room actually becomes one of those barriers?

Your server room, that began as a cost saving alternative to having your data managed off-site, can become an expensive liability. If your business is at a critical point of growth and you’re wondering what else you could do to drive it forward, take a long hard look at your hardware and ask: how much is the server room really costing the business?

Outsourcing data can save your business around 30% in running costs. But more than that, how much could it save you in averting potential disaster? The problem with data is that the amount of it running through your servers increases every day. Your reliance on that data increases as well, making it more precious and therefore a greater liability if anything were to happen to it.

Use these points to help you calculate exactly how much you’re spending on keeping servers in-house. Then imagine what you could do with that money, and office space, if you moved your data somewhere else.

1. Buying the servers in the first place

Servers aren’t cheap and technology evolves ever faster. How long will the server you buy today prove adequate for your business needs? Even top of the range equipment has a shelf life and, depending on how much data a server processes, that can be as little as two years.

Building a server room is not a one off expense. Make sure you include ongoing hardware maintenance and updating in your budgets. IT is the ultimate business facilitator. The flipside of this of course is that it’s becoming harder and harder to run a business without it.

2. Fire suppression

If you don’t have fire suppression in your server room, you need to get it. A fire suppression system is (or at least it should be) more than just a sprinkler system. Your data is your business and your focus should be on protecting it from potential disaster and how your business would recover if a disaster should occur.

Take a look at your fire detection and suppression system:

  • Does it detect heat plus smoke, or is it likely to cause false alarms?
  • Does it include an alarm that incorporates two alert methods, such as a loud noise plus flashing lights?
  • Have you placed fire extinguishers in critical locations?
  • Is there an emergency power-off switch?
  • Are you using a suppression agent that doesn’t destroy the equipment you’re trying to save?
  • Is that agent easy to clear, ensuring you are back up and running within your maximum tolerable downtime threshold?

3. Cooling

After only a few minutes of overheating, a CPU can suffer catastrophic damage. How do you keep yours cool? Most people use air conditioning units to help prevent overheating. While it can be effective, air-con is hugely expensive and carries a terrible toll for the planet.

Innovations in cooling technology are presenting us with more environmentally friendly options all the time. A green strategy is an important part of most CSR policies now. Running an inefficient data centre will undermine any good green intentions and cost you a fortune at the same time.

The kind of sophisticated cooling systems used by professional data centres are simply beyond the financial reach of smaller businesses. Yet by using their space, you benefit from all the advanced technology they have in place for a fraction of the cost and your green reputation remains intact.

4. Power control

How is your server room powered? If there is a power cut do you have a back-up power supply that would take over? A three-pin plug, connected to a generic power supply is enough to power a server. But just because you can do it this way, doesn’t mean you necessarily should and it certainly isn’t the best option.

What if the office cleaner doesn’t realise the importance of that single power source and unplugs your servers to plug in the vacuum cleaner? Your data is way too important to entrust it to a single power source. A professional data centre will have multiple fail-overs and sophisticated power control.

5. Electricity: how much was your last bill?

Energy costs are the single largest financial consideration for any data centre – up to 60% of the total outlay. As your data requirements grow you will probably buy more servers that will take up more power. If you’re buying your electricity on a standard commercial plan, this is quickly going to become a dominant cost.

Professional data centres buy electricity wholesale at a huge discount. Good companies will pass on these cost savings to their customers in their pricing. It’s possible to negotiate wholesale costs with power suppliers such as EDF or brokers on amounts over a minimum of 500KW – 1MW. As you’d expect, the more you buy over a long time period, the better price you’ll be offered. Unless you can buy in similar bulk to a data centre, you will always pay more than they do for power.

6. Is your server room controlling your business decisions?

I’ve personally seen businesses move offices because it was cheaper for them to relocate – even with all the expense of producing new stationery and other admin costs – than it was to move the server room.

Your servers are called servers for a reason: they are there to serve your business. Data infrastructure is crucial, of course, but it is there to support your processes and enable growth. It shouldn’t be something around which your whole business has to revolve.

7. Your business needs people to drive growth

A healthy business is a growing business and the driving force behind any business is its people. How many revenue-generating desks do you think you could fit into the space taken up by your server room?

Any business with more than five employees will benefit from using a server. But there comes a point when managing your data in-house stops helping your processes and instead starts hindering growth.

If your business has reached a point of apparent inertia, it’s worth adding up exactly how much your server room is costing you in hardware, fire suppression, cooling systems and energy bills. The solution to driving your business to the next level could be as simple as moving your data off-site.

If you would like to discuss any points in this article, please contact our Data Centre Team on +44 (0) 20 8216 3333 or email them at