A data center is a facility designed to store large amounts of equipment connected to computers, electronics and communications. Usually maintained by organizations in order to handle core operations in information services, including Internet connectivity, intranets, LANS, WANS, and extranets – practically every size of company, has some manner of data center. The most basic data center will have a computer network, including backup power supplies, air conditioning, and security applications, which amounts to a very large amount of data, stored in a large number of computers. Generally, the larger a company is, the larger the data center(s) will be. While larger companies may house their own data centers, smaller firms may opt to outsource its I.T. infrastructure or corporate computer information to a data center, suited to storing confidential, critical systems and business information.
It is important for a company to have access to a data center, logically, because this is where a great deal of the core equipment that is essential to its operations will be located. Much like the brain in a human body, without it, a company would not be able to run efficiently. Computers and communication elements, in addition to many other vital components, are what keep a business operating.
Internet Servers and Network Infrastructure
Also located inside of the data center, are various types of Internet servers. Data centers are often built and secured physically as well as logistically, to protect the equipment and data that they store. Security is an extremely important segment of a data center’s existence. Often designed as some of the most safe environments in a city, the main purpose of the data center is to maintain and run applications so that the businesses they serve, may access and manage data files effectively.
Network infrastructure communications in data centers are most often based on networks running the IP protocol suite. Data centers contain a set of routers and switches that transport traffic between the servers and to the outside world. Some of the servers at the data center are used for running the basic Internet and intranet services needed by internal users in the organization, such as email, proxy and DNS servers ( Domain Name System (or Service) – that translates domain names into IP addresses). Network security elements are also usually deployed, such as firewalls, VPN (virtual private network – a private data network that makes use of the public telecommunication infrastructure). Also commonplace, are network monitoring and application systems.
While there are many types of information that may be stored in data centers, one example for a financial institution, would be essential, critical, security-dependent client accounts, including confidential numbers, and names, as well as business projects. A bank’s data center will usually have a mainframe or other kind of network, where its information and other data are stored. Another example is a university, which would include employee and student information, as well as data about the university’s physical holdings, such as buildings. Other information stored for a university, might be data on construction projects, as well as intellectual history. In addition, government institutions and companies that have multiple headquarters, as well as television, mobile phone, and other similar services, rely upon data centers heavily, to store and access a company or person’s critical data.
One of the most important functions of the data center, is security and maintenance. This is because ultimately, the data center is a computer system’s most vulnerable component. If the data center is large or contains large amounts of sensitive information, video camera surveillance and permanent security guards will probably be present. Physical security requires that personal access is usually restricted to a select few individuals.
In addition to general types of security, since the information stored within the data center, is very critical to the operation of a company, it should be protected from other types of loss, as well as theft. The security measures employed by data centers need to be strong enough to handle climate control, and contain backup systems which rely on battery power, so that they may continue to function in the case of an interruption of electrical power.
With regard to web hosting, data centers are employed to store servers (housing shared accounts, dedicated servers, or colocated servers) and other types of applications. The physical layout of a data center may occupy from one room of a building, one or more floors, up to an entire building. The equipment is often in the form of 1U type servers, situated in 19 inch rack cabinets, usually placed in single rows, with corridors between them, for easy access. Mainframe computers, storage devices and other kinds of equipment (such as cooling units, fire suppression, uninterruptible power supplies), often as large as the racks, are sometimes placed alongside of them.
The Planet is an example of a company that offers colocation services. You can read an overview of their data centers here:http://www.theplanet.com/why_the_planet/data_centers/. The company also offers something which is almost colocation – or maybe more like a hybrid of colocation and dedicated servers. The company calls it private racks – read up on it here: http://www.theplanet.com/specialized_solutions/private_racks/.
A long-time player in the colocation space is a company called Level 3. According to the Level 3 website, the company has laid a network that spans 47,000 miles – and is continuously upgradable. You can read up on the Level 3 colocation services here: http://www.level3.com/wholesale/services/data/colocation.html.