Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to your data center strategy

Article by Nilesh Rane



Let me ask you a question – How do you see a data center, what is the purpose of a data center for your organization? Do you consider a data center as a place where you can just store your servers or do you see it as serving a higher business purpose?

In my opinion, a data center can be used to serve a higher business purpose and partnering with an experienced data center provider can definitely enable you to make better business decisions and expand your footprint. Thus, the data center becomes an enabler of growth and not just an expense in your balance sheet.

Applying Maslow’s hierarchy to the data center

Since a data center is a capital intensive and a critical IT investment decision for your organization, it is important that you partner with the right service provider to ensure a better return on the investments that you make. After all, your data center strategy has to support the growing needs of your business and act as a catalyst for its growth.

Here lies the catch…let us consider Abraham Maslow – yes, the guy who coined the hierarchy of needs and has it named after him as well.

When we closely study the Maslow’s theory of hierarchy of needs, we understand that human needs have a certain order in which they are met. So basic human needs like food and water come first and the higher needs such as creativity, self-actualization and problem solving come second.

Now let us apply these (slightly modified) in the context of a data center.

Stage 1: The very basic needs – uptime and availability

Uptime and availability are the two basic needs that every organization expects from a data center. This constitutes space, power, cooling and connectivity and a lot of resources & SOP, best practices go into each one of these. Though all data center providers provision for these basic needs, there may be differences in the level of services being offered. Similarly in Maslow’s theory, there is a difference between basic resources for survival and living comfortably.

Stage 2: Need for safety – preparing for any disaster/calamity

Natural calamities happen – your organization needs to be prepared to face it without any disruption to business. Your organization’s preparedness for disaster depends on how prepared your data center provider is. In the event of a disaster, your data center provider should be able to provide redundant systems for power, cooling and connectivity. Moreover, your data center provider should have facilities in different geographical locations so that if a disaster were to strike a particular region, your systems could be up and running from a different location within minutes. A capable and experienced provider would have the systems tested through periodic drills to ensure that business continuity is maintained for its customers.

During the Mumbai floods in 2005, Netmagic was able to ensure business continuity for all its customers by getting the systems back on line within a matter of a few hours.

Stage 3: Need for support – having easy access to a partner/connectivity ecosystem

When your business expands, having an easy access to an ecosystem of IT infrastructure and network providers is crucial for your organization’s growth. Having easy access to these partners enables you to get the world-class services, flexibility and purchasing power. Many data center providers have a partner ecosystem of their own to support their customers with their business expansion plans.

Stage 4: Need for vision – expanding your footprint as your business grows

All businesses need support when they grow and expand to different locations. With changing workloads, your IT infrastructure should be able to scale up to meet your business’s growing needs and in the locations that your business grows. The choice of an IT infrastructure provider depends on how far your organization sees into the future and adequately provisions for the growing needs of the business. Your organization needs a data center provider that enables you to think ahead and plan for future growth.

Stage 5: Need for a data advantage – data center strategy

The final level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – the highest level also known as self-actualization. What this means in the context of a data center is where the data center becomes an enabler of growth and a revenue generating center giving you that competitive edge. How? By speeding up time to market to deliver new services and products. And when you expand your global footprint, it gives you access to partners who will deliver the performance and service levels you need as soon as you need them. This starts a cyclical process where you get connected to providers that understand your business and put your business on a growth trajectory.

Not all data centers are created equal. To turn your data center into a strategic asset and advantage, you should not only look to satisfy basic data center needs. You should look to build a data advantage. On a parting note, Maslow would actually be quite surprised to see his theory being applied to data centers.