For example, Amazon Web Services' Simple Storage Services (S3) offering allows customers to choose one of seven locations around the globe for their data storage needs and where the customer chooses impacts the price. A standard AWS storage option costs 12 cents per GB up to the first TB of data. If a customer chooses to store the data in California, the price jumps to 14 cents per GB, and if it's stored in South America, it rises to 17 cents per GB. While AWS says that it doesn't disclose the exact location of its data centers, it does provide a map showing generally where they are.
Other providers seem to have similar strategies. Terremark, a Verizon company, has a network of six data centers that power the company's cloud offering, with plans to add four more. Customers can choose to have their data stored in Miami; Culpepper, Va.; Beltsville, Md.; Hong Kong; Sao Palo, Brazil or Amsterdam, a company official wrote in an e-mail.
So does it matter where the data is stored? Crandell says, generally speaking, to reduce latency customers want their data to be close to where it will be accessed by end users. The farther away the data is, the slower the speed of response. Online retailers, financial institutions and gaming companies can be particularly sensitive to latency concerns, he says. "If there's even a half second delay in a game or on an ecommerce site, that can be enough for people to click away to another site," he says.
Other times, customers may specifically want data in different locations for disaster recovery and business continuity reasons. Building in multiple layers of redundancy and data replications can guarantee that if there is an outage in one area, that the data is backed up somewhere else.
Tata Communications, the Indian global telecommunications company, has taken advantage of this. John Landau, senior vice president in the technology and service evolution business, says Tata has been offering an IaaS service with facilities in India and Singapore since 2010. They hope to soon expand into the U.S. and Europe. But as of now, their offerings appear to U.S. companies that have customers, R&D teams or other operations in those countries. "It's the conundrum of the cloud: Even though it's a potentially global infrastructure, customers still want local capabilities," he says.
For some customers, there can be regulatory requirements to keep data within domestic borders. Crandell and Landau say this is mostly applicable in European countries that require data stay in Europe. There is some fear, they say, that data in the U.S. could be subject to inspection from the USA Patriot Act.