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Finland Proves Popular for Data Firms

Data centres can be located anywhere. The beauty of a data centre is the data can be accessed globally, no matter where the actual server physically is. However, one of the problems with running a data centre is that it can get extremely hot and, as such, very expensive to keep cool. As such, some businesses have taken to creating their data centres in countries that aren’t known for their high heats. As such, Finland has become a lucrative location for big technology firms like Google and Microsoft.

“In Finland we are excited that we can finally turn cold climate and uneventful boring society into a competitive advantage,” said industry writer Petteri Jaervinen, presumably half-jokingly.

Microsoft is currently undertaking a $250 million project to have a data centre in the north of Finland, following in the steps of Google from back in 2009.

Google’s data centre is located in an old Finnish paper mill in Hamina. It’s one of the most advanced and efficient data centres that Google has and it follows the company’s green initiative. The mill makes use of the sea water, using it in a renewable way, to help with the cooling process. There are currently more than 90 employees working on the site. Google chose to set up in Hamina because of the town’s combination of energy infrastructure, developable land and available workforce.

Part of the draw is also in the 4400 miles of fibre optic cable laid down along railway tracks. Carl Wideman, director of Invest in Kainuu, a business that aims to promote the central region of northern Finland, claims that they wouldn’t have any customers without the cables.

Also, Helsinki is hoping that a 620 mile fibre optic cable under the Baltic Sea will provide competitive edge. This cable will link Finland with Germany and it could be live from 2015. There are hopes that this cable will reinvigorate the technology industry in the country – previously home to Nokia, a company that has really struggled in recent times.

There are other Nordic countries also looking to capitalise on the growing need for data storage. For example, Sweden was home to Facebook’s first European data centre; Iceland has a great strategic location between Europe and the US.

“The Nordic countries have fairly similar qualities: cold climate, political stability, good infrastructures,” said Keijo Heljanko, an associate professor of computer science at Helsinki's Aalto University.

Finland’s fibre optics will link it to Europe, cutting out the current need to go through Finland. This has strong security implications. The Swedish government apparently have a legal mandate to spy on everything which passes through their networks – perhaps not that surprising considering the NSA revelations. However, in Finland there is apparently none of this, something which data companies will be very pleased to hear.

The rise of data storage in Finland has drawn some criticism, however. Some say that the jobs provided by data centres will be low skilled maintenance roles and do not contribute to the local economy. However, the Finnish government are currently backing the Baltic cable project, having pledged $136 million to the cause.


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