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Data Centre Infrastructure: how to assess if investing is an asset to your organization

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Data is the currency of the technological world, everyone wants it and everyone wants to use it, but when is it the right investment for your organisation? Here are some thoughts about Data Centres, what they are and what impacts you need to consider.

What is a data centre?

A data centre is a facility composed of networked computers, storage systems and computing infrastructure that organisations use to assemble, process, store and disseminate large amounts of data. A business typically relies heavily on the applications, services and data contained within a data centre, making it a critical asset for everyday operations.

“Data centres are places where information is collected. What started as a data storage centre became more and more an information processing centre.” - Maria Jose Perea Marquez, Co-Founder and Entrepreneur at LD7

Data is the backbone of today’s world, of 110 countries with available information, as of January 2021 there were nearly 8,000 data centres globally.

With staggering investments from the big players like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, and the growing prominence of cloud computing, mobile payments, and IoT, this growth is showing no signs of slowing, and by 2025 data centres in the UK alone will be worth $135 billion.

How do data centres work?

A data centre facility, which enables an organisation to collect its resources and infrastructure for data processing, storage and communications, includes the following:

  • systems for storing, sharing, accessing and processing data across the organisation,

  • physical infrastructure for supporting data processing and data communications,

  • utilities such as cooling, electricity, network security access and uninterruptible power supplies (UPSes).

Gathering all these resources in a data centre enables the organisation to do the following:

  • protect proprietary systems and data,

  • centralise IT and data processing employees, contractors and vendors,

  • apply information security controls to proprietary systems and data,

  • realise economies of scale by consolidating sensitive systems in one place.

Data centres are power-hungry

Data centres that support businesses, internet services and our social media lives use lots of energy. As their numbers grow there is pressure to make them more energy-efficient and reduce their environmental impact. Whether bingeing "Stranger Things" on Netflix or just posting a gif file on Twitter, both cause a chain reaction and use energy. That is not just on personal devices but in data centres scattered around the world where that information is stored.

“Data Centres have an enormous footprint on the environment. Cities like Frankfurt have 20% of the electric consumption going into data centres. Electric power very quickly translates into CO2” - Dr. Martin Z. Wilderer, International experienced CEO and Venture Builder

Data centres need electricity to run their equipment; they also need a lot of it to keep the machines cool. Just how much electricity all these data centres use is up for debate. Currently, many experts estimate that data storage and transmission in and from data centres use 1% of global electricity.

One thing Data centres could do is to control their energy usage by regularly updating their systems to newer technologies with lower power consumption. Improving energy efficiency by lowering power can save companies millions in total energy costs. On average 47% of data centres are refreshing their systems every 1-3 years and another 28% every 4-5 years.

Refreshing equipment does not always have to be a complete replacement of the server system. Server sub-systems such as compute, memory, fans, power supplies, and chassis, can be refreshed at different rates based on their independent lifecycle. Enabling a modular refresh of subsystems is another way to reduce not only costs, but also E-Waste.

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How to choose the right data centre as a business

1. Location

Location is one of the most important factors for selecting the right data centre. While there are many data centre locations worldwide, the right facility should have a physical location that is easy for someone from your business to access. Take into consideration how the area is susceptible to natural disasters like tsunamis, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes.

2. Building Space

The physical space is just as important as the digital space for your colocation needs. The ideal data centre should have bigger and better spaces to allow for equipment to run more efficiently. In addition, if disaster strikes, look for a facility that has dedicated office space for disaster recovery and business continuity.

3. Scalability

While a data centre might be able to meet your current needs, how will it support your growth in the future? Every data centre is different in their flexibility, some offer out of the box solutions with limited options and others provide more customised solutions that are tailored just for your business’s needs. Do not hesitate to find out more about the availability of more space and power if needed.

4. Security

Your data is critical to your business, when you host it in another location, you better be using a provider who uses state-of-the-art security measures and is compliant with data regulations such as SOC 2, SSAE 18, and HIPAA. The facility should have physical security barriers including multiple security layers, access control procedures, surveillance and alarm systems. Advanced monitoring should be in place to detect and notify any possible building or system emergencies.

5. Reliability

Downtime means bad times for businesses. A reliable data centre should have a system in place to provide instant backup power and guaranteed uptime of 99.982%. Look for a data centre that has at least tier 3 certification for redundancy.

6. Connectivity

Unfortunately, some data centres only offer one or a few carriers to connect with. The ideal data centre should be carrier-neutral and offer multiple fibre entrances. This offers a wide choice of major bandwidth providers to connect to, and faster and more reliable performance for your business’s servers.

7. Power and Cooling

Brownouts and blackouts can happen anytime and drastically affect your uptime. A reliable data centre should have power redundancies in place to guarantee consistency and uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Backup generators should keep the servers and connections running for longer periods of time.

8. Remote Hands Support

Sending your own IT staff to perform server maintenance is time-consuming. The ideal data centre should have in-house remote support with 24/7 engineers on-site to help during emergencies or complete tasks such as server checks, reboots, network maintenance, and more.

9. Reputation

Reputation can make or break your data centre decision. Before choosing any data centre, find out more about the provider’s service record and history. Do some in-depth research, look for testimonials, and find feedback from current clients to see how they deal with customer issues.

10. Customer Service

Data centres shouldn’t only focus on larger space and faster speeds for businesses. The right facility should have dedicated and experienced support staff available 24x7x365 to answer questions and solve problems when needed.

Do your research and make the correct data centre selection

Data centre allocation is an important decision that supports your business’s future growth. Businesses must carefully consider all the factors and conduct research to find the right data centre for their needs.

Choosing the wrong data centre can lead to issues with connectivity, limited scaling, security breaches, and a ton of headaches. Use the factors listed above to narrow the list of potential providers and find a colocation partner that meets all your IT and business requirements.

“Business is a force for good. Focus on your processes, your business models, and be aware in the selection of your supplier that you're leaving a very big footprint.” - Dr. Martin Z. Wilderer, International experienced CEO and Venture Builder

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