Despite the adoption and rapid advancement in the cloud computing paradigm, there is still a growing need for organizations to manage and store data efficiently within their local area network. On-premises data storage is thus becoming a key concern to help organizations be able to process voluminous amounts of data in an increasingly data-driven economy.
Information technology trends such as Big Data and Internet of Things, for instance, given their immense potential for competitive advantages and organizational growth, require far more storage and processing requirements than what are currently available.
While the focus of cloud computing is to provide data storage capabilities off-premises, data centers revolve around on-premises data. Firms that successfully utilize data centers are able to benefit from a range of advantages, leading to greater organizational value and growth. This is particularly important in a fiercely competitive industry where the company that leverages data the best wins the game. Large scale hospitals, market research companies, retail organizations, and government agencies all are reliant on handling data to ensure efficient customer service through best practices and procedures.
In fact, a growing number of companies are tapping into the benefits of data centers to ensure smooth flow of data processing capabilities within their organization. For this reason, it is imperative that managers understand what data centers are, how they function, what are the different features and issues in data centers, and how data centers are anticipated to evolve in the future.
Tech target defines data center as,
“A centralized repository, either physical or virtual, for the storage, management, and dissemination of data and information organized around a particular body of knowledge or pertaining to a particular business. “
An example of a data center is the NCDC (National Climatic Data Center), which consists of the largest database of weather. In the case of a private company, a data center exists either as a separate facility or within premises. Data is not stored online, but rather on-premises.
Data centers are very large in size, similar to large mainframe computers, and require regular maintenance for smooth functioning. In some cases, the size of a data center can take up an entire building or number of buildings, in which network servers are running on a constant basis.
Also known as server farms, data centers provide a host of critical functions including data storage, data backup and recovery, networking and data management. Additionally, data centers can also handle other services such as cloud data storage and applications, instant messaging and e-mail, e-commerce, and a range of other services. Private companies and organizations usually utilize data centers for meeting telecommunications needs. Organizations that operate web-based call centers or onsite phone systems across a large network will find data centers particularly useful.
Data centers are used in a variety of private and public sector to access, store, and process volumes of data efficiently. A New York Times source reported that there are approximately 3 million data centers, and the number is only expected to rise in the years to come.
Data centers exist in many different types, each of which that offer unique capabilities and features. It is crucial for managers to know these types and its differences so that they can invest in one that meets their organizational needs and objectives. Some of these are as follows.
These data centers are operated by the organization using their own facilities. The particular organization will invest in a data center that meets industry requirements and ensure the design and construction of it is according to its on-premises space and supporting technology.
In such data centers, equipment is housed and provided for third parties. A company can choose to invest in a collocation data center to provide its client with higher bandwidth through access to networks of major carriers or through outsourced services. Companies of all sizes and industries can benefit from a colocation data center.
These cater to fewer companies with data storage requirements much higher than in collocation data centers. It operates similar to a leased warehouse in which the company will choose to offer data center services to clients. All maintenance issues will be handled by the company or provider, and all clients will be able to retain control of their hardware equipments.
Organizations and institutions that utilize data centers benefit from a number of advantages pertaining to cost, efficiency, and greater data resilience. Let’s look at these in further detail.
Efficient data centers enable organizations to benefit from fewer instances of downtime issues and higher performance. In this way, costs pertaining to upgrades, maintenance, and disruptions are minimized, resulting in higher cost savings. While investments in data centers can be substantial, its efficiency ensures costs are minimized over the long run in the form of greater network performance and data management.
Organizations also benefit from exercising greater control of their data through a centralized approach to data storage and management. Users have greater visibility of their data since multiple files and folders become much easier to manage. In this way, duplication of data is avoided and managers can ensure no important data is left out in refocusing their IT and business strategies.
Since data centers also provide backup and recovery services, organizations can ensure all their critical data and information assets are in safe hands. This means that in the case of events, such as power outages, natural disasters, theft, or cyber attacks, confidential information pertaining to customer accounts, employee details, and future business strategies are not leaked or corrupted.
Firms that have poor risk data management practices can lose years’ worth of planning if their sensitive data becomes stolen. Data centers, on the other hand, allow firms to meet risk management objectives with greater accuracy and effectiveness.
Due to the nature of information available today, many firms are required by law to store and process data in ways that conform to best practices. Failure to conform to these requirements can cause them to face penalties. Data centers, thus, prove to be highly important in this regard.
A data center is made up of a number of different components that vary according to its type. The following are some of the components you need to know about.
Servers make up for much of a data center. In fact, a data center constitutes of a plethora of servers, each consisting of a storage space, a processor, memory, and an input and output function. You may think of these servers as a compact version of a laptop, but with far greater performance and processing capacity. Although the servers do not contain any monitors, there may be monitors in separate locations to allow staff to ensure all equipments are functioning properly.
The servers can be configured to work on a particular task or run many tasks in parallel. The latter is important in the case of colocation data centers to provide a variety of data center application to a host of clients and users.
These constitute a very substantial part of the data center infrastructure. The storage equipments ranges from hard disk drives and solid state drives to backup batteries, uninterruptible power supplies, backup generators, and other related equipments. The variety of storage devices are needed to store and process a variety of data, such as social media information, bank records, and e-mails. The storage equipments are usually stacked vertically in the form of racks.
In addition to storage and server equipment, a data center also requires equipment for networking and cabling. This is essential to provide users with a high internet bandwidth depending on the type of data center in use. Wholesale data centers, for instance, will consist of a greater number of cabling and networking hardware so that users are able to manage greater datasets.
The many components used for this include switches, routers, NICs (Network Interface Controllers) and cabling. The type of cabling also varies; organizations can choose from a range of coaxial, copper, plastic, or fiber optic cables to balance speed and safety.
Data centers should be organized to run efficiently in case of a power outage or other emergencies. The objective of the electrical equipment should be to ensure the smooth flow of electricity from the utility grid to the IT equipment. Usually, a data center is connected to two separate electricity grids. This is done to ensure that the data center can still operate and maintain its performance should one grid fail to deliver electricity.
Depending on the type of data center, it will consist of a number of backup diesel generators that are capable of producing more than 20 megawatts of power. Another key aspect of effective electricity infrastructure is that the diesel motors are always kept heated so that no time is wasted on data management in the wake of any kind of problems.
Block batteries are also important in making sure all application can be operated in such situations. Lastly, ATS (Automatic Transfer Switches) are also used to provide smooth transition of power from the electricity grid to the backup generators.
Data centers run on a 24/7 basis, causing a substantial amount of heat to be generated. Ensuring it operates smoothly without facing any interruption or electrical hazards requires an efficient cooling infrastructure. Its objective is primarily to ensure that the heat generated is removed properly so that it does not cause the data center to shut down. The cooling infrastructure functions similarly to a fan for limiting the heat produced in a laptop or desktop computer.
The cooling systems comprises of a number of CRACs (Computer Room Air Conditioners) or CRAHs (Computer Room Air Handlers). These are kept cold through the use of a number of super-cooling units, usually six, with around 300,000 liters of water kept at 4 degrees Celsius. The purpose of using such a large quantity of ice-cold water is to provide a fail-safe mechanism should the cooling system fail.
It also relies on an efficient arrangement of servers to allow cool air to flow from the floor and through the racks of servers, causing the heat to be dissipated. The temperature of the cool generally lies between 24 and 26 degrees Celsius.
Given the substantial amount of data stored in the servers, it is critical for organizations to ensure their data centers are equipped with a considerable amount of security features. Data centers that provide e-commerce transaction capabilities, for instance, are exposed to a range of risks. It is important that organizations implement a number of steps to ensure their data centers are kept secure from both internal and external factors.
One of the most important steps is to provide a single point of entrance and a back exit door. This will not only help keep costs low, but also limit entry points to authorized personnel. In this way, companies can mitigate internal security risks.
A second way to embed security is to have a robust system in place to identify and eliminate potential threats. This can be done through the use of efficient server monitoring software and tools that can manage DRAC and ILO service processors and oversee all alerts when risks are imminent.
Also, you can secure your mouse, keyboards, and video systems through a secure password or authorization code for personnel so that only staff that are authorized are able to access data centers.
If you are a business that is looking to invest in a data center for your industry needs, you must take the following guidelines into account to ensure you make the most of it.
The easier it is for you to handle and maintain your data center, the more likely it will be for you to be able to use it effectively and meet your organizational goals and objectives. The entire infrastructure should be simple to understand and operate so that you have fewer chances of making errors or require constant upgrades and replacements.
The scalability of your data center will have a great bearing on the number of years you can use it for. To decide on what data center size is the best fit for your needs, you need to review your future goals and objectives, your budget, your facility size and space, and whether you have the manpower and expertise available to manage the multiple components of the data center.
This is particularly important if you are planning to expand and will require investing in many onsite phone systems or other types of office telephone systems. The same is applicable for organizations using call center software or telephone recording software solutions.
You should also make sure that all the components of the data center infrastructure are easily upgradable. The components must be easy to service or repair should it become faulty and its structure should be easy to adjust and move around to suit your on-premises space.
Datacenters are becoming necessary for organizations to effectively store and manage large volumes of data. If you are a business that is looking for a solution to a number of multiline business phones or telephone recording software systems, a data center can enable you to meet your requirements.Back to all Posts