Why Altoona, Iowa is An Ideal Data Center Location

data centers

The unsung heroes of the business world are huge buildings filled with computers, also known as data centers.

A lot of people may not know what data centers are, but they certainly notice when they malfunction. Ever had your server crash at work? Not a very pleasant experience.

And as it turns out, the functionality of data centers is greatly impacted by their location, just like any other piece of business real estate.

Let’s dive into what data centers are, why their location matters, and most importantly—what makes Altoona such a great place to build them.

What is a data center?

Data centers are essentially “offices” that are built specifically for computers.

Their server rooms (giant rows of computers) house the network infrastructure, software, and security elements that keep business’ digital operations up and running.

Data centers are vitally important for things like file sharing, database management, artificial intelligence/machine learning, virtual work environments, e-commerce, and other business-critical functions.

Typically, larger companies will own and operate their own enterprise data centers, while smaller businesses will rent services out of colocation facilities.

Thinking back to the office analogy—operating an enterprise facility would be like owning an entire office building, whereas utilizing a colocation would be similar to renting out a single floor of one.

Why data center location is important

Location, location, location. It’s just as important for data centers as it is for commercial real estate properties like shops or office buildings.

There are plenty of factors—determined by geographical location—that can affect the success of your data center investment. These include natural disaster risk, land and energy costs, access to network providers and skilled labor, etc.

Long story short—finding an ideal data center location leads to the best ROI for your business. It maximizes uptime while reducing the risk of costly downtime (or even disaster).

Characteristics of a good data center location

Generally speaking, a good data center location provides the most value for the least amount of risk.

Here are a few factors that signify you’re looking in the right spot:

  • Minimal chances of natural disasters
  • Plenty of available land
  • Close proximity to population centers (skilled labor and end-users)
  • Access to a clean and affordable power supply
  • Serviced by multiple network providers

Spoiler alert—Altoona checks all these boxes.

What makes Altoona a great location for data centers

Altoona is a prime location for data centers due to its safety, abundant available land, clean & affordable energy, and quick access to network providers & skilled labor.

And it’s no secret, either. Meta has invested $2.5 billion into an Altoona development to continue expanding a massive data center they built here back in 2014.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the factors that make Altoona such a prominent and desirable data center location.

Iowa isn’t prone to natural disasters that threaten data centers

Natural disasters like forest fires, earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis are some of data centers’ most prominent existential threats. Their destructive power can result in complete data and asset losses—a business’s worst nightmare.

Thankfully, Iowa is not exactly prone to these types of “data center doomsday” events.

Yes, Iowa experiences blizzards and severe thunderstorms, but these are mainly power outage risks—they’re incredibly unlikely to damage or destroy the data center itself.

Altoona has plenty of available business real estate properties

As a leader in Iowa economic development with more than 900 acres of development-ready land, Altoona has the space and support needed for data center construction.

And it’s important that these facilities have enough room to sprawl. The average data center occupies around 100,000 square feet of space, according to datacenters.com, but they can be much bigger.

For example, Meta’s data center in Altoona (which started off with 476,000 square feet in 2014) is set to expand to roughly 4.1 million square feet by 2023.

Thankfully, the City of Altoona is more than capable of consolidating these types of sprawling operations. It’s one of the best places for commercial real estate in Iowa, supported by municipal leadership, tax credits, and incentives that make large-scale developments like data centers especially effective.

Altoona is only 20 minutes away from Des Moines—Iowa’s largest city

Constructing and operating a data center is no small feat—each location typically requires the help of hundreds of workers.

It’s advantageous to build near a major city like Des Moines in order to attract and retain skilled labor.

Altoona is only 20 minutes away from Des Moines, a city with roughly 215,000 residents. It offers great amenities and entertainment, but also has a relatively low cost of living compared to other Midwestern cities like Chicago.

Additionally, being located so close to Des Moines means there are plenty of end-user businesses in the area, something that’s especially beneficial to colocation facility developers.

Iowa is a leading provider of clean, affordable energy

With 57% of its total electricity generated by wind turbines, Iowa has the highest wind power share for any state, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

But Altoona’s energy isn’t just clean—it’s especially affordable for commercial consumers.

As of 2020, Iowa’s commercial and industrial electricity rates were roughly 17% cheaper than the national average.

The benefit of all this? Responsible and rewarding ROI. Clean and affordable energy in Iowa helps data centers operate at lower costs, while greatly minimizing their environmental impact.

Altoona is serviced by multiple high-speed network providers

It’s no shock that data centers require powerful internet connections to operate properly. Altoona offers access to multiple high-speed network providers, helping to give developers some options.

Mediacom, CenturyLink, and Mi-Fiber all service Altoona with speeds of around 1,000 Mbps.

Find commercial real estate for data centers in Altoona

Looking for space to build a data center in Iowa? Partner with one of the leaders in Iowa economic development—Altoona, a community just minutes east of downtown Des Moines.

Altoona has plenty of available development properties, provides access to clean and affordable energy, and is connected to multiple high-speed internet providers. There’s a reason why major companies like Meta are choosing to construct their data centers in our city. Altoona (and its tech sector) are growing—now. Expand your horizons with us.

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