Storage Containers: The Tiny Homes of Data Centers


Pretty much any business produces data and, consequently, needs a way to store it securely. If you’re a regular on our blog, you know that we’ve often said that there is no one-size-fits-all in data storage.

Different businesses have different needs. For some, edge data centers are ideal, others opt for colocation. More recently, modular data centers have started to gain traction. 

What Are Containerized Data Centers?

Containerized data centers, also known as modular data centers or prefab data centers, refer to using shipping containers (or a similar structure) to accommodate a data center. Containers are entirely customizable, so they can easily be configured to host any combination of storage devices, servers, generators, cooling gear, networking equipment, and uninterruptible power supplies.

If the configuration demands it, you can also use separate support containers near a containerized data center to house the cooling and power equipment. 

One of the major perks of this approach is that you can build connectivity into the container. Thus, everything you need, from water for cooling to power and data can be delivered into the container from the outside.

Why Do You Need Storage Containers for Data Centers?

The global prefab data center market was valued at $9 billion and is expected to reach a whopping $35 billion by 2023. Why the increase? Some of the reasons why businesses choose modular data centers are:

Bypass Space Limitations

Building a data center can take up valuable real estate. With containerized data centers, you can easily claim back some of the space in your office building.

Modular data centers can be placed pretty much anywhere—in a less used area of your building, in a secure outdoor space, or on completely different premises. All you need is a steady power supply and the right hookups and you’ll be good to go.

Save Money

Building a data center from scratch is a big investment. Modular data centers, as contained individual units, are much cheaper to build and maintain.

Moreover, since you don’t need premium real estate to host them on, you can save some money by finding a cost-efficient home for them. Plus, when a container has served its purpose in one location, it can be repurposed at the next. 

Move as Needed

By nature of being in a storage container, modular data centers are 100% portable. You can move them around to different locations. This is especially relevant for edge computing where location matters. 

Speedy Deployment

A traditional brick-and-mortar data center may take years to build and set up. On the other hand, modular data centers can be up and running in a few months or less, depending on how much customization is required and the condition of the eventual site.

Construction and configuration is typically handled in a factory, far away from where the container will eventually live. This speeds the entire process up and centralizes resources. 


A brick-and-mortar data center is the size that it is, with scaling requiring costly investments and a lot of time. With modular data centers, you can easily scale up or down whenever you need to simply by adding, removing, or reconfiguring the containers and their contents.

Energy Efficiency

Data centers consume far more energy than a regular office building. While this is perfectly normal, there are ways to keep your energy consumption lower while enjoying state-of-the-art storage.

Containers are compact, which makes creating an energy-efficient airflow far easier. Better yet, they can be designed with incorporated energy-efficient features from the very beginning.

Limitations of Modular Data Centers and How to Avoid Them

Just like any other solution, containerized data centers have their limitations, too. They are a great way to store your data “on the go” or almost anywhere. But almost is key here.

Depending on the type of cooling system a container uses, you may need access to water or to the outside air. This will limit the type of location you can use for your modular data center and requires the container to be able to withstand the environment (e.g., humid, sandy, windy, etc.).

You also need to take into account various other aspects like site security, access control, fencing, access roads, and more. 

Perhaps the most important consideration to be wary of is uninterrupted access to a power source. Yes, you can move modular data centers if you want to, but you can’t move them just anywhere.

This is why we strongly advise you to consult with a specialist before switching to a modular data center infrastructure. 

Iowa Data Storage Solutions 

Not sure if modular data centers are right for you? We can help you talk through options. At Heartland Technology Data Center, we specialize in colocation and edge computing in the Midwest, but we understand when containerized data centers may complement a storage strategy. Our facility is set up to host prefab data centers if that option is right for you.

You can consult with our team and we’ll get you pointed in the right direction.