More and more of the UK and Ireland is being covered with whirring, humming rooms full of servers and data storage. Businesses that rely heavily on IT, attract a high number of users or visitors, and want to continue to grow, wouldn’t be able to survive in this digital landscape without them.
The ideal scenario for a customer would be leaving the data centre to it, meaning the facility has to be 24/7, highly efficient and secure operation. Not only does a data centre handle customer data and financial information, they’re also essential to the daily operations of thousands and thousands of businesses.
These are the three primary data centre issues and solutions the industry faces.
Power usage effectiveness (PUE)
Understandably, it takes a huge amount of power to run so many servers in one place, so a large capacity is both necessary and difficult to manage. Most data centres will face a conflict between keeping their equipment cool and running it at optimum power.
PUE is “the amount of power entering a data centre by the power used to run the computer infrastructure within it”. The large majority of power coming in should be used as productively as possible, but many watts can be wasted on out of date, inefficient cooling systems. The average data centre has a PUE of 2.5, but the Uptime Institute thinks data centres could reduce that to 1.6 if they chose their equipment and infrastructure carefully, wasting less power overall.
As far back as 2011, Amazon have been using modular data centres, which are purpose built and much more efficient than data centres which are expanded in haste as demand grows. Not every data centre has Amazon’s budget, but it’s always important to consider how equipment, structure and location could be wasting energy.
Giving customers and clients confidence in their data storage
PUE is all well and good, but customers are more interested in security and a reliable service. If an element fails, they need to trust the data centre to deal with it effectively, whether it’s in the middle of the average working day or the early hours. They’re also concerned by potential data breaches or hacking, and often don’t have the knowledge or resources to deal with it in-house.
Often the perceived risk is much more dramatic and detailed, so clients need some reassurance. In reality, internal security audits mean there are staff on hand whose sole responsibility is data safety. It’s not just the digital safety of the data centre that’s under lock and key, many are physically robust too. Landscaping that creates space around the site, crash barriers, and comprehensive surveillance systems should be the norm. Some take the steps to bomb-proof their facility, knowing they could be a target.
Purpose-built sites are always preferable for customers, because data centres use a huge amount of power. An old warehouse could have been built purely for storage, but that doesn’t mean it’s suitable for storing thousands of servers and providing an uninterrupted power supply.
Reporting and monitoring in real-time (in a way the customer can understand)
Many people aren’t particularly literate in data centre terminology, they’d particularly struggle with many of the acronyms, but that doesn’t mean reporting can’t be translated into a language they do understand.
Real-time information is what many expect - a weekly report isn’t enough - and it needs to give them a clear picture of the top-level information that’s most relevant. The customer feels involved and informed, but it also helps to position the data centre as trusted experts with a bank of valuable knowledge.
Communication is the only way to demonstrate this to customers and build that trust, as is complete transparency when it comes to any difficult questions they might have. As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.