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What Is a Data Centre and Why It's Important

Key features, business use and how data centres are managed

What is a data centre? A data centre is a facility that houses servers, network equipment, storage systems and various computing infrastructure in order to store, organise and process large quantities of data. These computing systems enable services to be provided, applications to be housed and data to be processed, delivered and stored.

More and more companies conduct business not only as brick and mortar establishments but also transact online. With better infrastructure, connectivity and the growth of the internet, companies have been investing not only in their online presence but in seeing how business can be conducted and supported digitally through cloud computing.

These factors have contributed to a data explosion - 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily according to Bernard Marr in his Forbes article, How Much Data Do We Create Every Day? The Mind-Blowing Stats Everyone Should Read. The applications housed at data centres, the services delivered through them and the data are critical to many businesses.

What are the main features of a data centre?

A data centre comprises many parts:

  • The facility itself is comprised of the buildings and the various mechanical and engineering components within

  • Network infrastructure (such as switches and routers) connects servers hosted in the data centre to services, storage utilities, hardware and equipment

  • Storage infrastructure contains the systems storing the data that companies need to access around the clock.

Supporting infrastructure involves the delivery of ancillary services with minimal fuss and disruption:

  • Robust hardware allows hosted services and applications to run 24/7, a requirement for many businesses today. Disruption, outages or unanticipated threats have the potential to wreak demonstrable havoc on a business. This is especially so because companies do not have an online presence simply to showcase their brand but to transact, to communicate and to process business information. Companies that use data centres expect and rely on dedicated power (including backup generators) to prevent their servers (services and applications) from going down, impacting business continuity and revenue

  • Cooling and ventilation are vital as these data centres house a significant amount of equipment. If this is not done well, equipment can overheat and shut down which leads to data loss or damage and the consequent financial loss

  • Operational staff include the technicians and engineers on the ground who continually monitor operations, address incidents as they arise and keep everything running smoothly

  • A security systems framework must be in place to address physical intrusions (biometrics and video surveillance, for example) and cyber-attacks (people practices in terms of passwords and controls, secure protocols, firewalls and anti-malware programmes).

How do businesses use data centres?

As many companies today are handling volumes of data, it’s a given that they are utilising a data centre at some point (even if they do not have their own) through the services they contract from others.

Data centres are used to host, manage, process and support business applications and activities. These include hosting productivity tools (such as email systems and collaborative apps), managing e-commerce transactions and databases, communicating and managing customers through CRM tools and more.

Data centres help companies manage their data and communications in a reliable, secure and consistent manner. They provide systems to store, share and access data and applications not only internally but externally and have robust infrastructure to enable them to keep delivering services securely.

Large enterprise businesses may build, own and manage their own centres, typically keeping these facilities on-site. Alternatively, companies may contract managed services data centres, that is, managed by a third party for the company (known as co-location services). In such a situation, the company would not need to invest in infrastructure and equipment. They would pay a subscription fee for the services.

There has also been a growth in public cloud-based services with hosts like Amazon (offering Amazon Web Services) and Microsoft (offering Azure), for example, providing these services completely online, supporting both data and applications.

Why are data centres important?

One of the biggest advantages of the data centre is that it allows a company to focus on driving their business forward.

Some of the key concerns mid to large businesses might have include:

  • ongoing access to mission-critical business data and applications

  • deciding where and how applications should be hosted and accessed by both the business and its customers

  • how best the business can extend their support and customer care through digital means

  • best way to optimise both their e-commerce and online applications and delivery.

Enterprise businesses do not only want to deliver their services and maintain a professional brand presence. They want to be able to do this well consistently. Yet not every company has the skill-set or inclination to stay on top of a myriad number of issues.

These issues also detract from a company’s primary focus. If these aspects can be outsourced in a secure and reliable manner, it can mean greater security and reliance, reduced costs and improvements in efficiency.

How are data centres managed? The two most important aspects of how these centres are managed are:

Facilities management - involves the coordination and management of issues within the physical data centre facility. This includes security, maintenance and administrative tasks. Asset management - involves oversight and management of every asset or resource within the data centre for optimal deployment. This includes:

  • physical inventory (devices, racks and equipment)

  • virtual assets (software, operating systems, utilities and applications)

  • service provision (service level agreements, warranties)

  • lifecycle management ( to improve performance, ensure sustainability and business continuity)

  • Technical support (for ongoing maintenance and to address faults or outages etc)

What is the significance of data centre ratings? Data centres typically have a classification or rating system. Uptime Institute, for example, sets an international benchmark on data centre performance using a tiered system. Tier levels describe the infrastructure components which are utilised at a business’s data centre.

Certification is available to allow companies to meet international benchmarks and confirm that the data centre meets the requirements for the tier selected. There are four tiers classified, according to criteria for maintenance, power, cooling and fault capabilities.

The ANSI/TIA-942 standard, offered by The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), describes four rating levels in which data centres can be classified. Rated-1 is for a Basic Site Infrastructure. Rated-2 is for Redundant Capacity Component Site Infrastructure. Rated-3 is for Concurrently Maintainable Site Infrastructure and finally, Rated-4 is for Fault Tolerant Site Infrastructure.

As businesses consider their digitalisation strategy, ramp up e-commerce offerings and maintain a focus on the customer journey, it is clear that data centres will continue to play an important role. Partnering with a data centre is one way for your business to secure your digitalisation journey and achieve the scale needed to take your business forward.

Basis Bay operates Rated-3 (Rated-4 enabled) data centres with no single point of failure and operates the first green data centre in Asia. As an owner-operator of green data centres, we enable enterprise businesses to keep going. We can assist you with green IT outsourcing and greed data centre Build & Manage. Contact us today to organise a data centre tour.


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