Top Tips to Remember When Designing Your Data Centre Solution

Written by Anthony Carter, MD, Connotations Publishing Ltd. Published 2020-11-06 10:20:37

Your company's IT infrastructure is critical. And like anything else considered mission critical, your company cannot afford to leave its data centre solution to chance. It is not enough to research pricing and go with the company offering the best deal. There is far more to it than monthly costs.

Is your company in the process of designing a new data centre solution? Are you considering working with a provider to house your IT infrastructure rather than keeping it on-site? If so, there are some important things to consider. Whichever direction your company takes, those tasked with making decisions should not do so lightly. The wrong decision could lead to all sorts of unintended consequences.

Physical Floor Space

Housing your IT infrastructure requires floor space. Simply put, you need space to build your racks. Do the providers you are considering offer adequate space for current needs and future expansion? In all likelihood, your IT infrastructure needs will not remain static. They are going to grow as your company grows.

For all intents and purposes, this is an issue of scalability. If you are thinking of going with a provider already on the edge of filling up available floor space, you may run into scalability issues before too long.

Power and Cooling Requirements

After floor space, power requirements are the next biggest thing. A data centre's power capabilities are critical to keeping your IT infrastructure up and running. For every data centre you are considering, ask the following questions:

  • How is the facility primarily powered?
  • Does the facility have any auxiliary sources of power?
  • What is the facility's means of producing backup power?
  • Does the facility have a plan for increasing power as demand increases?

Data centres consume a tremendous amount of electricity. When mains power goes out, there needs to be an adequate backup supply available. Most data centres achieve this through standalone generators. The data centre you choose should have more than adequate backup power capabilities.

Hand-in-hand with power is cooling. Why? Because heat is the biggest enemy of server racks. The more servers in a given space, the greater the cooling requirements. Suffice to say that your provider has to have more than adequate cooling capability. Modern data centres are cooled in any number of ways:

  • Air-conditioning
  • Water cooling
  • Outdoor air cooling
  • Localized cooling.

In an ideal setting, a data centre would utilise multiple cooling methods. The facility would also be designed to encourage air flow in support of whatever cooling methods are utilised. Air flow is generally designed around the following concepts:

  • Primary Exhaust and Intake – How air enters and leaves the facility
  • Server Racks – How air flows around and over racks
  • Aisle Segmentation – Controlling how airflows in between aisles of racks (where applicable).

If a facility appears to be skimping on cooling, be concerned. Cooling can be an expensive proposition that data centre owners simply do not budget enough money for. They may not have adequate cooling that scales well as the number of servers increases.

On-Site Support

Housing your IT infrastructure at a third-party data centre means having to interact with the data centre support team. Is the support team on-site? Are they available 24/7? It makes no sense to host your IT infrastructure at a facility with inadequate support. You will likely need the team's help at some point, so make sure your eventual provider offers the kind of support you expect.

Your company probably wants a support team that continually monitors your equipment. Immediate notifications when problems arise are essential. And of course, any help the support team can give to properly address problems is appreciated. In short, you want a support team that acts as an extension of your company rather than just a third-party rental partner.

Physical Security

We talk a lot about data security. It is important, do not misunderstand, but so is physical security. Under no circumstances should you house your IT infrastructure in a facility that is not physically secure.

Physical security starts with access control. In other words, access to the facility is limited to only those who need to be there. Doors are locked at all times with access gained by ID card, security code, or some other means. Access control is further enhanced by on-site security personnel.

Physical security in some facilities includes enclosed server racks that protect the servers themselves against threats that can range from water to dust and physical intrusion. Similarly, a facility should be equipped with fire suppression and flood mitigation systems.

Recognized Sustainability Strategies

Finally, sustainability is a big part of the modern data centre industry. It has to be. Data centres are consuming an ever-growing volume of resources to power servers and keep facilities cool. The industry's forward thinkers realise that sustainability has to be a priority as the amount of data flowing through the cyber sphere increases.

Choosing a provider with recognised sustainability strategies puts the customer on a path to both saving money and contributing to solutions. Every bit of energy saved represents less money a data centre has to spend to keep operating. Every new energy source tapped means less reliance on more traditional energy sources. And if greater energy efficiency can be achieved in ways that are safer for the environment, even better.

If your company is on a path to achieving its own stated sustainability goals, perhaps its choice of data centre providers can contribute toward accomplishing those goals. It's something to think about. 

In the meantime, keep all of these things in mind when designing a data centre solution. Each one plays a critical role in determining whether or not your service provider meets your needs, both now and in the long term.