DALEVILLE — Botetourt County announced Tuesday it will build a data center with the help of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority.

The center will be built within existing infrastructure in the Greenfield industrial park and is expected to be up and running by spring 2020. Supervisor Mac Scothorn announced the development at a broadband expansion event attended by Gov. Ralph Northam, who visited the region on Tuesday. Botetourt County has recently focused on bringing fiber access to its residents by 2023 through public-private partnerships.

“We all know how important internet access is, but getting it everywhere is only the first step,” Scothorn said. “The future of telecommunications advancement requires stability, redundancy and disaster recovery. We need fiber, wireless, high speed and lots of service options, but to encourage advancement, we also need commercial accessibility.”

A data center houses computer systems and their components, such as data storage or other telecommunications software. Large companies often have their own data centers around the country to back up data and house the hardware that runs the company’s network. So if one center is affected by natural disasters or an attack, the company can still function on its remaining data centers.

Storing information in a data center allows companies more reliability because centers are equipped with cooling systems, advanced backup generators and added security.

The data center at Greenfield will be a “network-neutral data center.” These open-access centers allow multiple telecommunication companies to locate and operate there, which encourages competition. Companies that use these providers would be able to switch services without physically moving their servers, so providers would be encouraged to offer a better product.

County Administrator Gary Larrowe said having a data center in the region will give local companies greater access to their servers and increase reliability. Additionally, it would encourage providers and companies to consider locating in Botetourt County.

Service providers often use other providers’ fiber infrastructure to transport data from one place to another. The farther that data has to travel, the more expensive it is for the company and thus the customer. But a local data center would cut down those distances and the associated costs.

Currently the closest data centers of this kind are located in Richmond and Charlotte. Eventually, this data center could mean cheaper internet costs for the entire region.

“It keeps local traffic local,” said Frank Smith, president of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority. “That means you aren’t paying to send that information somewhere else just to bring it back here. That cuts down on costs and that’s very attractive.”

Development of the data center has already begun as the county seeks providers and companies that may be interested in locating there.

“To get those services provided inside the Roanoke region is phenomenal,” Larrowe said. “I don’t want to overstate it, but at some point in the future, this data center will touch every person in the Roanoke region in some form or fashion.”

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Alison Graham covers Roanoke County and Salem news. She’s originally from Indianapolis and a graduate of Indiana University.

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