What Does a Data Centre Do?
So, small businesses, what exactly does a data centre do? 4D Data Centres explain in this short video
Hello and Welcome to the IT Scrapbook from 4D Data Centres.
This time we’re answering the question WHAT DOES A DATA CENTRE DO?
Everyone needs to back up their computer data – including things like documents, customer details and financial information – to keep it safe from theft, fire or being accidentally deleted.
And most small businesses, charities and other organisations also need an internet connection for their website and emails, so they normally store their data on a simple server on the premises.
This is essentially a specialised computer the size of two pizza boxes connected to the business’s local network and also to the internet; it contains a set of hard discs that store data that can be sent through the network to other computers locally and to people visiting the business’s website via the internet.
But as organisations grow bigger, demand for their products grows, staff need to store more data and the website becomes more popular. This all means they inevitably end up needing more servers.
And eventually they have to build an entirely separate server room just to house them all.
But this isn’t straightforward to maintain. For a start, lots of servers create lots of heat.
So they need to be kept cool, otherwise they can fail catastrophically!
And providing this level of cooling, using traditional air-conditioning units, can be very expensive.
In fact, current estimates suggest that about 1% of the energy consumed by the entire world each year, and 5% of Europe’s annual energy bill, is spent just on cooling computers!
Server facilities also need to be maintained around the clock by an IT professional to ensure that they run reliably.
So, together, these constraints can become a serious financial and logistical headache.
Not to mention the security risk …Keeping business-critical servers in-house is rather like a bank keeping its cash in a shed in the car park.
But rather than trying to solve these problems themselves, many organisations instead now choose to move all of their servers out of their own buildings and into a specialist facility called a Data Centre.
This is a secure, computer-friendly environment that is maintained around the clock by IT specialists, mechanical experts and electrical engineers and kept at just the right temperature to ensure that the servers supported inside perform at their best.
Crucially, data centres are also equipped with their own backup “uninterruptable” power supplies, usually in the form of large batteries and a powerful generator, so that even if there’s a mains electricity failure, the servers – and the organisations they support – can keep on running.
And because this facility is shared by many organisations at once, it’s known as colocation.
The servers are held in locked cabinets or racks. Data centre clients rent as many racks as they need, according to the amount of processing power, storage space and bandwidth that they use.
The aisles between the rack cabinets are alternately “hot” – carrying the waste heat away from the server racks and “cold” – fed by fresh, cooled air that is driven through the racks to keep the servers at a constant, computer-friendly temperature.
Traditionally, aircon units similar to the ones used in cars and homes, have been used to supply the cold air needed to keep the server rooms cold.
But these are very costly to run, meaning that often as much electricity is consumed just keeping a facility cool as is used on running the servers themselves. In fact, for this reason, the global data centre industry accounts for nearly as much carbon dioxide production as the airline industry every year.
More recently, though, the introduction of newer eco-friendly techniques has enabled data centres to reduce the amount of electricity and carbon used in cooling by up to 90% helping them keep costs down for their clients. The new system uses the same science that keeps you cool when you exercise. While you sweat, and the evaporation of the sweat carries away heat from your skin, these cooling units evaporate water from wetted filters, dropping the temperature of the passing air.
So, if you’ve already got a computer room with all your servers in it, why would you need a data centre?
For some businesses, popping their servers in a data centre might not be necessary. But organisations are increasingly doing the sums and asking:
- How much electricity and floor space would we save if we put all our servers in one location?
- How much will it cost if we need to expand (or reduce) our current IT infrastructure in the future?
- And what would be the cost to the company if we lost our servers to a power-cut, theft, fire or flood?
If the answer to any of the above is “a lot” then a data centre might be a better option.
This video was produced by The Naked Scientist for 4D Data Centres – a group of high quality data centres which provide friendly and professional colocation and connectivity services. To find out more you can look us up at www.4d-dc.com or see more about CEO and founder David Barker.
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