Netflix, YouTube, Google and Facebook are just a few of the platforms where you may find yourself living on the edge. All these businesses use the newly emerging ‘edge’ data centers to push content more reliably to more customers.

What is an edge data center?

The Edge data center (EDC) is the latest in networked computer servers and remote storage, but it’s a different breed to the more common tier-2 data center.

In simple terms, EDCs are physically closer to their end users, delivering better service in an online world where the kind of content users demand (like hi-definition streaming video) is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver with tier-2 data center capabilities.

Thus, location is important in defining a center as an EDC, as it brings content closer to the end user with a center that extends the internet’s edge, connecting at least 50 percent of all broadband users in a metropolitan area with 75 per cent of their internet usage.

Do you need an EDC?

The aim of an EDC supplier is to give more space to their main customers so that they can have access to the data center’s full potential. This is particularly useful to service providers looking for the best possible capacity, resilience, and performance in areas where there is no high-speed internet connection.

Whether you need one depends on a couple of factors, such as how bandwidth-intensive your offering is, where your audience is based, and how important high reliability is to your business model. If your audience is primarily based in tier-1 metropolitan areas, you may not need to use EDC services. However, if you’re offering services like video streaming to a geographically dispersed customer base, you might want to consider pushing that edge.

What are the benefits?

The potential benefits of using an EDC are still emerging but should include better performance, increased reliability, and lower costs.

Any content that is bandwidth-intensive – not just streaming services but also medical imaging or complex architectural and engineering drawings – can slow an entire local network. Having an EDC closer to its users, instead of a distant metropolitan location, removes that problem.

Another benefit is diminishing the effect of the failures that can cause an entire company to go offline. When organizations use a centralized data center, the impact of that center going offline can affect an entire global company – distributing the centers means that any downtime is localized.

Equally, distributing backups across several centers results in greater reliability. Organizations can relocate virtual processes off a failing server to another server in a remote facility, so that a bug in one device can be isolated and repaired without downtime to the whole company.

Although EDCs are still new, the future on the edge looks bright for larger organizations and end-users alike.