What Is a Data Center: Everything You Need To Know

Storing, protecting, and maintaining business data and equipment has never been more important - learn everything about data centers here.

Bojan Jovanovic Image
Updated:

September 08,2022

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As companies deal with more and more data, centers for storing that data have grown in significance. Organizations utilize a data center as a physical location to store their important applications and data. 

Performance, scalability, availability, and security are all improved with properly planned and managed data centers. But what is a data center? Read on to find out more.

The Definition Of a Data Center 

Data centers are facilities that keep storage systems, computing infrastructure, and networked computers secured and running. Therefore, they are used by organizations to store, put together, and process enormous amounts of data. 

Whether through physical or cloud storage, data centers are used for protecting and securing vital company resources. As technology has mostly switched to the cloud, one might wonder why we need data centers at all. 

However, a typical public cloud is just a mix of many different data centers. Think about this: when applications and data are hosted on the cloud, they use data center resources from the cloud provider, showing how tightly connected these two systems are. 

Data centers support numerous activities, such as work on virtual desktops and with big data, productivity applications, AI/machine learning, email and file sharing, and customer relationship management (CRM).

The trend from previous years shows that more companies are adopting AI - specifically, data from 2019 shows that 37% of companies employ AI, making the processes of running data centers much smoother, as this combination improves security, resource consumption, and power management. 

Still, due to the lack of trust in the new tech and fear of possible workflow disruptions, some companies remain hesitant about using AI in their data centers.

Key Components of a Modern Data Center 

There are different classifications out there, but the key components of a data center are typically data storage, operational staff, facility, and support infrastructure.

Data Storage

An essential part of any data center is the data storage, i.e., the hard drives and other storage carriers that will house the data that needs to be stored. Physical HDD racks, servers, cables, networking switches, and storage subsystems are also essential for your data storage. 

Operational Staff

For data centers to work properly and be up-to-date, some staff must monitor and maintain the infrastructure and IT equipment at all times. 

Facility

The physical location where the data center is stored needs to be secured and has to provide enough space to fit all of the equipment and data center infrastructure. These facilities must meet strict requirements for keeping the equipment and data safe and secure.

Enterprise data center facilities move things up a notch by keeping crucial data systems in highly-protected physical locations and using advanced firewalls to protect the data.

Support Infrastructure

It consists of equipment that offers the best possible sustainability. Some components of this physical infrastructure are electrical switching, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), and ventilation and cooling systems. 

Moreover, this section includes appropriate connectivity options and a good network carrier, telecom provisioning, power distribution, and additional power subsystems if necessary.

Types of Data Centers

There are many different types of data centers available, and the classification depends on several factors, such as whether they’re owned by a single or many companies or what kind of technology they use. We’ve collected the four most common types often used to sort different data centers. 

Colocation Data Centers 

With this type of data center, companies rent a space within an existing data center that’s typically owned by someone else. The company takes care of its storage, firewalls, components, and data center servers by itself, while the colocation data center offers cooling, security, bandwidth, and the building used for the storage.

Enterprise Data Centers

These types of data centers are owned by companies that built the physical data storage location and operate and optimize the data centers for their own purposes. They’re typically very close to the physical location of the company itself. 

Cloud Data Centers

These are remote data centers whose applications and data are hosted by a cloud provider. Examples include Microsoft (Azure), Amazon Web Services, IBM Cloud, or similar cloud providers. 

Data Centers with Managed Services 

These types of data centers are managed by third parties the company hires to keep the operations running. With this kind of arrangement, the infrastructure and equipment are leased instead of bought. 

Data Center Infrastructure Standards 

An entire system is set in place to keep data centers virtually and physically secure. It includes uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), power subsystems, ventilation and cooling, backup generators, and fire suppression systems. The most commonly adopted data center standard is ANSI/TIA-942. According to it, there are four data center tiers: 

  • Tier I includes basic infrastructure and must have a UPS unit.
  • Tier II adds cooling and redundant power, along with redundant capacity. It provides better protection from physical hazards and includes redundant-capacity elements, with a single distribution path that’s non-redundant. 
  • Tier III: The most significant aspect of Tier III is that it ensures that any component can be removed without the risk of affecting production.
  • Tier IV refers to fault-tolerant site infrastructure that allows any type of production capacity to be safe from failures.

Bottom Line 

Data centers are vital for the proper functioning of many businesses worldwide. They store and process crucial data that must be protected at all times. There are different types of these centers with varying levels of security. 

Now that you know the answer to the question “What is a data center?” you hopefully understand its importance for a company’s business and why having a well-organized data center is all but a necessity for smooth business operation these days.

FAQ
What are the types of data centers?

There are different classifications used to sort and distinguish data centers, but the most common one puts them into one of the following four categories: enterprise data centers, cloud data centers, colocation data centers, and data centers with managed services. 

Why do we need data centers?

Data centers help centralize a company’s IT equipment and operations, which is vital for securing an organization’s data and greatly helps with many internal processes.

Who uses a data center?

Any organization that uses or generates lots of data. Examples include anything from telecommunications companies, government agencies, financial institutions, educational organizations, or retailers to big tech giants like Apple or Google. 

 

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