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Why is this town Europe’s largest data centre hub?

Slough, a town in Berkshire just outside London, has long suffered from a poor reputation. Its portrayal in popular culture, notably in the British sitcom The Office, and even in poetry by John Betjeman, hasn’t helped. However, recent developments suggest that this negative image might be changing.

Thanks to its strategic location, excellent transport links to London, and proximity to Heathrow Airport, Slough is now being seen as ripe for a technological revolution. The town boasts Europe’s largest cluster of data centers, currently numbering 34 with more in the pipeline, according to the Slough and South Bucks Observer.

The demand for data centers has surged since the advent of the internet. Slough welcomed its first data center in 2005 and has since become the largest data center hub in Europe, centered around the Slough Trading Estate.

These data centers serve as the backbone of modern digital infrastructure, storing everything from cloud data to social media content. Many of London’s financial institutions and emergency services rely on Slough’s data centers for their operations.

Despite the secrecy surrounding this industry, we were granted rare access to one of Virgin Media O2’s data centers in Slough. Tom Finch, a technical site engineer, explained how the center manages mobile traffic for 3G, 4G, and 5G customers, highlighting Slough’s importance as a data hub.

The pandemic has further boosted demand for data, with surges in online activities like home working, gaming, and virtual reality. This has necessitated significant investment in infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted service.

So why Slough? According to datacenters.com, Slough’s advantages lie in its strategic location, robust fiber optic broadband connectivity, and proximity to Heathrow. Moreover, the town’s history as a banking center played a crucial role in establishing it as a data center hub.

However, data centers also pose challenges, such as high energy consumption and water usage for cooling. Efforts are underway to address these issues, with a focus on sustainable energy sources and energy-efficient technologies.

Emma Fish, the regional operations manager at Virgin O2, emphasized the importance of data centers in today’s world and praised Slough’s suitability as a base for these critical facilities.

With its transformation into a digital powerhouse, Slough is shedding its old image and emerging as a key player in the global tech landscape.

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