What is a Data Center?
Many businesses rely on shared computing resources such as application servers, web servers, and database servers. These shared servers may be used by employees, business partners, and customers around the globe. The businesses could store these servers in their own offices, but it is usually a better option to store these servers in professional data centers.
A data center is a specialized facility designs and built to store servers and other centralized computing resources. To provide an optimal environment for this equipment, most data centers provide the following:
- Raised Floors
- Equipment Racks or Cabinets
- Redundant Cooling
- Redundant Power
- High Speed and Redundant Network Connectivity
When you have a lot of computers, cabling becomes a serious hassle. Professional data centers use a special type of floor to store cables and make them easy to move, add, or change. These floors are “raised” because they are actually on a platform about a foot above the real floor. The raised floor is divided into flood tiles approximately 16″ across. Any individual floor tile can be lifted up with a suction-cup device. This makes is easy for technicians to access the cables which run underneath the raised floor.
Equipment Racks or Cabinets
Most server equipment is designed to fit into an industry-standard 19″ rack. Data centers provide either open racks or lockable enclosures to store the greatest amount of equipment in the least amount of space. Most equipment racks also include cable-management features to help keep power and network cables organized and out-of-the-way.
Modern computers generate a lot of heat and heat is also one of the most significant causes of computer hardware failure. Data centers provide powerful cooling to keep the environment safe for server equipment. Because cooling is so important, professional data centers utilize two or more redundant cooling systems. This means that is one cooling unit fails, another unit will be able to do it’s job.
Computers don’t do anything without power. In addition to power from the electrical grid, professional data centers often utilize on-site batteries and electrical generators to power the facility during electrical outages.
High Speed and Redundant Network Connectivity
Servers aren’t very useful if users can’t get to them. Professional data centers provide redundant network connectivity working with multiple ISPs (Internet Service Providers). If one ISP fails, network traffic is automatically moved to the other ISPs,
Choosing a Data Center
Power, cooling, and network connectivity are three critical features to consider when selecting a data center. Other features to consider include access, location, and cost.
If you need occasional physical access to your equipment, make certain that your data center allows that. Some data centers allow it only by appointment or only during business hours.
This also means that you should consider location when choosing a data center. If you are in London, you might want to opt for a data center in London. If not, you might end up driving (or even flying) when you need to physically access your equipment.
Finally, cost is an important issue and pricing varies widely between providers. The more clearly you can define your requirements, the more money you can save by not buying features you do not truly need.