What Is A Data Center?

So, what exactly is a data center?

Data centers are facilities which are utilized to securely hold servers and other computer systems. These buildings tend to place a large emphasis on power, environmental controls and sercurity. Data centers come in many different varities and can be both private and public facing.

Let’s go into deeper detail…

A data center is any space being used to keep computer systems and their ancillary equipment (i.e. telecommunications and storage devices). Typically a data center is a large area with multiple back up power supplies, electronics friendly fire suppression systems, security controls and an environmental control system (heating, air conditioning, etc) and redundant communications connections. Some of these data centers have hundreds of thousands of servers holding terabytes of information. Almost as much money is spent on equipment and maintenance as on the facility and maintaining it. Electronic equipment is so sensitive that precise levels of temperature and moisture must be maintained to help prevent failures.

Data centers of today can trace their lineage to the large computer rooms of the 40’s and 50’s when massive amounts of space were needed to do even the most basic computations. As computer technology improved, and storage devices shrank in size, soon areas that once were used for computational hardware are now being filled with racks of memory devices and media. Information today is high value asset for all businesses and protecting that date from theft or catastrophe is a primary concern. Modern data centers address this issue by allowing a company to back up their data, at regular intervals, in an offsite and secure location. If anything happens at the primary business location, like a fire, the data can be recovered and often quite quickly.

Likewise, the data centers themselves have back up files incase anything happens to their primary storage. The redundancy becomes a necessary evil in a society dependent on something as intangible as information. Data centers, especially the large ones, consume massive amounts of energy running their storage equipment, telecommunications devices and environmental controls. Their backup generators consume massive amounts of fuel and they produce tons of electronic component waste, much of which poses environmental hazards and care must be taken in its disposal. With the increase in eco-friendly business mind sets, companies are taking a closer look at how they use and manage data centers.

Not all the data generated by company needs to be retained and many companies are instituting regular data purges of “useless information” like old e-mail files. They are also trying to find more eco-friendly power sources (i.e. solar and wind) and mandating recycling of damaged and outdated hardware. With continued improvements in these and other areas, the data centers of tomorrow will be as different as those of today are from the ones 50 years ago.

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