What is a Datacenter?
You may have heard the term datacenter before and wondered what it means. Is it some repository of information? Is it the center of all data? Or a futuristic term for a super computer? The term datacenter is defined as a location that houses computer servers and provides the reliable power, cooling, and network infrastructure needed to run them. Think of it as an upscale hotel for computers.
Datacenters have rooms filled with tall racks, packed with servers. They usually duplicate critical pieces of the infrastructure to ensure reliable service. Redundant air conditioners, designed to cool the air that would otherwise feel like the Sahara from all the computers running. Redundant power with diesel backup generators, providing clean reliable power even during Maine’s harsh winters. And multiple paths to the internet ensure that no one failure will take down the network. Businesses connect their offices to the datacenter with a dedicated network connection, or using the internet, so they can access the systems as if they were in the office.
You are already using one, whether you know it or not.
Datacenters also play an important role in modern day computing, especially cloud computing. If you use a cloud service, such as Drop Box, iMessage, Gmail, or any number of others – you can bet it resides in a datacenter. Datacenters provide the reliable and secure foundation necessary for mission-critical services, as well as the computing power needed for peak loads. Often, a single datacenter might connect to multiple datacenters all over the world. The information in one datacenter is “replicated” or copied to other datacenters, so that a catastrophic failure such as a hurricane or earthquake won’t interrupt services. The other data centers would simply pick up the load.
Some datacenters offer “co-lo” (colocation) space. This means you can rent a spot in the datacenter for your servers, and utilize all the benefits that the datacenter has to offer. If your business server is stuffed under someone’s desk, or in a closet that heats up in the summer – you may want to consider moving it to a datacenter. Trying to build the infrastructure that a datacenter can offer is an expensive undertaking. Datacenters can reduce this cost by providing the infrastructure and spreading the cost among all their customers.
If your company uses IT to deliver a service to customers, then a datacenter is almost required. Customers expect reliable delivery of services, and there is a real cost when that service is interrupted. Unless you’re willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars on cooling, power and networking – a datacenter can help improve your uptime and reduce your hardware costs. As for growth, datacenters can scale up rapidly. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on hardware, you can rapidly spin up additional resources that the datacenter has in reserves. This allows you to grow your business in an economical way.
Many levels of benefit
Disaster recovery is another valuable benefit that datacenters can assist with. If your company has mission critical applications housed on systems at the office, using a datacenter to duplicate your systems can provide an inexpensive way to improve your recovery times. A fire, flood or other disaster can render your systems inoperable. In those cases, a properly prepared disaster recovery configuration can provide a backup system to use, for an extended period of time if needed. If you add all the costs associated with building out a disaster recovery location – including rental of a space, hardware, networking and power – it’s easy to see why a datacenter offers an economical solution.
Security is another benefit of the datacenter. Most professional datacenters are completely locked down. Key cards are used to unlock doors, so only authorized personnel may enter. The racks containing servers are also locked security cameras keep watch 24/7. For businesses with compliance requirements, such as HIPAA or PCI, a datacenter can help achieve that goal with the increased security and advantages they offer.
A recent report from the National Resources Defense Council estimates that datacenters in the US alone use enough energy to power every household in New Your City twice over. However, what they use in power is easily offset by the efficiency they offer. When compared to a group of businesses doing it themselves in their own offices, consolidating the server infrastructure to a single location allows for an overall reduction in power and cooling.
As our technology–hungry world continues to evolve, datacenters are playing a key role in helping businesses achieve the goal of reliable, flexible information systems.