When selecting a disaster recovery location the geographic location is an important consideration.  As stated in Online Tech’s Disaster Recovery white paper, a low natural disaster zone should be selected to minimize the risk of critical IT infrastructure destruction.

So over the next few weeks, I will look in depth at a variety of natural disasters and analyze the geographical locations with a high concentration of data centers versus locations that offer low natural disaster probability and severity.

Data Center Locations
According to datacentermap.com, there are 1151 colocation data centers in the 48 states.  For the purpose of this analysis, we will focus on the states with the greatest number of data centers like California with 156 data centers, Texas with 108 data centers, and New York with 89 data centers.

US Data Centers

Natural Disaster – Tornadoes
I will begin this week with a look at tornadoes since this natural disaster poses the greatest threat to Michigan data centers.

Tornado Frequency
The interesting fact about tornadoes is that these terrifying storms can occur in every state, any day, and any time of the year.  In the United States the most heavily hit region is known as “tornado alley” and includes Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and eastern Colorado.  This area’s climate and location can quickly spawn violent storms and tornados can be quite active.

What’s surprising is that Texas has the second highest number of data centers while having the highest average of tornadoes of 155 per year. It also averages a tornado in every month of the year.

Data centers in the southeast such as Florida averages 66 tornadoes annually with activity throughout the year with a peak in the tropical season. Georgia experiences springtime peaks and has tornado activity throughout the summer averaging 30 twisters.

There is a high concentration of data centers in the northeast including New York and New Jersey.  Fortunately, this region averages 10 twisters in New York and 2 in New Jersey and has a fairly short season with averages peaking in July.  The frequency increases during the summer months since the jet stream is nearby and brings in surface moisture. 1

On the west coast, California has the greatest number of data centers and sees irregular tornado activity.  The state averages 11 tornadoes per year, which occur primarily in the winter and spring, but summer tornadoes can occur particularly in southern California.  Further north the state of Washington averages only 3 tornadoes per year. 1

In the Midwest there is a concentration of Illinois, Ohio and Michigan data centers.  Seeing the greatest tornado risk is Illinois averaging 54 per year with high activity in April.  Seeing peaks in June and July, Ohio averages 19 tornadoes and Michigan averages the least with 16.

State

No. of Data Centers

Avg. Tornadoes

California

156

11

Illinois

67

54

Florida

56

66

Georgia

35

30

Michigan

34

16

New Jersey

42

2

New York

89

10

Ohio

45

19

Texas

108

155

Washington

47

3

Tornado Severity
Looking at the number of tornados per year we can see the probability of a twister hitting a particular state, but we should also considered the destruction severity.  We can gain insight on the violence and destruction of tornadoes by looking at the number of declared FEMA disasters due to tornadoes.  The states with the highest declarations include Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Mississippi; followed by Alabama, Georgia and Texas.

U.S. Disaster Declarations

U.S. Disaster Declarations

If we focus on the states with a large number of data centers, Texas has declared 25 disasters, Georgia 21 and Illinois with 20 declared disasters due to tornadoes. We can see that the west coast and northeast have little to no FEMA disaster declarations due to tornadoes. 2

StateNo. of Data CentersNo. of FEMA Disasters
California

156

1

Illinois

67

20

Florida

56

11

Georgia

35

21

Michigan

34

10

New Jersey

42

1

New York

89

5

Ohio

45

13

Texas

155

25

Washington

47

0

Data Centers at the Greatest Risk
Comparing the data, we can see that some of the states with the most data centers also experience some of the greatest risk of tornadoes.  The state of Texas has the second greatest number of data centers and leads the average in tornadoes and number of FEMA declarations.  Illinois has the fourth greatest number of data centers and averages 54 tornadoes and declared 20 disasters.

Some top data center locations see very low tornado risks.  For example, California has the greatest number of data centers and only sees 11 tornadoes per year and has declared 1 FEMA disaster due to tornadoes.  Another west coast state like Washington sees even less tornadoes and has never declared a disaster due to tornados.  If we look at the east coast, New Jersey with 42 data centers averages only 2 tornadoes per year.

Based on tornadoes risk alone, states like California, Washington and New Jersey make ideal locations for data centers.  However, you must consider the risks from all natural disasters.  If we look at the total number of FEMA disaster declarations for California (214), Washington (112) and New Jersey (49), we will find that these states actually have high risks for natural disasters overall.2

Michigan Data Centers
For Michigan data centers, tornadoes propose the greatest natural disaster risk. However, Michigan has minimal probability averaging only 16 tornadoes and has declared only 10 FEMA disaster declarations due to tornadoes.  When we begin to look at other natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, etc. we will find that Michigan data centers offer even less hazards.

1 www.ustornadoes.com
2 www.fema.gov/disasters