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The A-Z of Data Centers

Have you been storing your servers locally or internally? Would you like to upgrade your storage and migrate to data centers to accommodate the growth of your organization? Then a data center is necessary.

So if you are asking questions like “How much will it cost to potentially expand our IT infrastructure in the future?”, or “What will be the cost of data loss to fire or flood?” and you stand to lose a lot if that happens, then you should have plans in place to acquire a data center.

Also, research has shown that 40% of visitors who land on your website will leave if the loading time is beyond 3 seconds and to increase the loading speed of your website, having your own data center is crucial.

What is a Data Center?

A data center is generally a structure or facility that houses a group of networked servers that establishments use to process, store or share data.

Data centers first started out as on-site hardware for the storage of data within an organization’s local or internal network and was managed by its in-house IT unit.

These types of data centers are still readily available; however, more data centers are being sited off-site, often in shared locations.

Several factors affect the design, functionality, and maintenance of a data center. These include:

  1. Service:If an establishment decides to use an off-site data center, service becomes a critical factor. While some facilities provide customer service, including mobile considerations, others do not. Expertise and Experience are valuable when looking for service providers to help you build, run, and maintain your data center, and employing a Managed Services Provider (MSP) to cover this gap is often a good strategy.

  2. Security: The security of any data center is paramount, mainly because more businesses lean towards shared data centers. When selecting data centers, one must consider both the physical and cyber-security measures, and these decisions are strongly based on the kind of data to be stored, processed, and shared.

  3. Uptime: Large organizations usually choose to work with MSPs because Service Level Agreements (SLAs) ensure that MSPs deliver top-level quality service, ultimately giving rise to efficiency and reliability in maintaining such data centers.

  4. On-going Maintenance: For a given data center to function optimally, there is a need to ensure that they have a strategy to keep their data centers fluid. From asset lifecycle management to ongoing operations, organizations determine whether they want to handle these services themselves or outsource them to MSPs.

Datacenter components can be divided into two (2) primary categories:

  1. 1. Hard Components - These are all of the physical attributes of a data center. A lot of data center’s hard components are in place to maintain an environment suitable for storing data and to address challenges related to the structure’s management. High-level setups include:

    • Physical Building

    • Physical IT Equipment

    • Racks

    • Cables

    • Servers

    • Networking Infrastructure

    • Critical Infrastructure (Cooling Towers, Generators, Fire suppression systems)

    • Physical Security Measures

    Providing around-the-clock access to information makes data centers some of the most energy-consuming facilities in the world, which has pushed data centers to modernize and become more energy efficient. Without such stability, the functionality of the data center will be compromised.

  2. 2. Soft Components - These are comprised of the logical and administrative aspects of a data center. While hard components are important to a data center, soft components can be said to be critical to a data center’s success, as they relate to data availability and security. Soft components address challenges related to:

    • Cyber-Security Measures

    • General Connectivity

    • Latency

    • Industry Standard Certification and Compliance

    • Disaster Recovery

    • Backups

    • Virtualization

    • Cloud Strategy

How Data Centers Work

A typical data center contains multiple rows of server racks, with each rack holding multiple servers that are temperature controlled.

These servers are networked together, as well as with the outside world, through a series of routers and/or switches to facilitate smooth data transfers.

Some servers are dedicated to running internet and intranet services for organizations, while others are dedicated to storage or for running applications and services.

An end-user who is connected to the internet sends a data packet to the data center; the data packet is basically a request from the user to perform one of the three tasks:

  • Get data out of the data center (GET request), or

  • Put or update data (PUT request), or

  • Delete data from the data center (DELETE request)

This packet is then delivered to the data center through a network switch, which is in communication with a server. The server identifies the request and retrieves, input, or removes data from the storage based on the received request.

If data is deposited or deleted, the user typically receives some kind of action notification and if data is retrieved, the server sends the data back through the network switch, which transfers the data packet back to the user via the Internet. It’s important to note that, within a data center, not all information is treated the same way.

Information that is new, time-critical, and/or commonly used is stored on higher performance technology to make it more rapidly accessible. This is usually referred to as hot data.

Data that is less frequently used or accessed is stored on lower performance systems, which means that data retrieval has increased latency on lower here. This is known as warm or cool data.

Types of Data Centers

For any organization, choosing the right data center can seemingly be challenging. According to the Uptime Institute, there are basically four tiers into which data centers may be classified depending on the performance of their infrastructure.

data center tiers image

The tiers are progressive, meaning that each tier also follows the requirements of all the previous tiers. Individual companies have different needs better suited to specific tiers and as such, they need to be aware of the level of infrastructure they require, or they risk spending too much or too little for infrastructure that doesn’t support their goals.

Tier I (Basic Capacity): A Tier I data center has a dedicated site infrastructure to support IT outside of a basic office. Tier I infrastructure includes:

  • Dedicated space for IT assets

  • An uninterruptable power supply with engine generators

  • Dedicated cooling equipment

Tier II (Redundant Capacity): In addition to all Tier I components, Tier II centers contain:

  • Redundant cooling and power components

  • Increased protection against disruptions

  • Minimal opportunities for proactive maintenance

Tier III (Concurrently Maintainable): In addition to Tier I and II components, Tier III centers do not need to be shut down for you to carry out scheduled maintenance. They include:

  • A redundant delivery path that serves to cool the system and for power.

  • The ability to shut down and maintain individual parts of the processing environment.

Tier IV (Fault Tolerance): In addition to Tier I, II, and III components, Tier IV centers include:

  • Fault-tolerance infrastructure

  • Minimal equipment failures or distribution path interruptions.

Ultimately, data centers are broadly classified into two categories: enterprise data centers and hosting data centers, and organizations will be making a choice between these categories depending on their specific needs.

Enterprise Data Centers : Enterprise data centers serve a limited number of users from custom applications and this is done behind a firewall.

This data center caters for both virtualized and non-virtualized servers, and it has a high uptime standard as well as security. The features include:

  • Number of applications: high

  • Security: high

  • Cost: medium cost

  • Value: high value

  • Workload scale: medium

  • Multi-tenancy: low

  • Traffic Orientation: mixed

  • Degree of Virtualization: medium but increasing

Hosting Data Centers -Hosted data centers are usually set up by third party providers who then rent it out to clients to cater to their deployment and storage needs.

For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) data centers, offering different levels of Infrastructure as a Service and relying on virtualization to deliver data to multiple customers in different locations. Because hosted data centers are off-site, shared environments, security, and latency are high priorities. Their features are summarized thus:

  • Number of applications: very high

  • Security: low to medium/p>

  • Cost: medium cost

  • Value: varying value

  • Workload scale: very high

  • Multi-tenancy: very high

  • Traffic Orientation: mixed

  • Degree of Virtualization: high

We have become greatly dependent on technology, which of cause generates data. With data generated much more in the last few years than in the entire history of mankind.

All the massive data generated by individuals and organizations have to be kept and stored somewhere hence, the need for reliable data centers.

Once you have identified your data center capacity requirements, then you can begin your search for the right fit for you.

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