Written by Douglas W. Grosfield – President & CEO, Xylotek Solutions Inc.
Aside from death and taxes, one thing that is certain is the relentless pace of change in the world of technology. What one might envision when thinking about what today’s data centres might look like and mean to a business, could be surprising.
Simply put, a data centre can be defined as a physical location for an organization to house its IT infrastructure, or a portion of it, where responsibility for its safety and (often) availability lands on the shoulders of data centre staff. Organizations no longer have to bear the cost of the physical location and its maintenance, and the protection the infrastructure enjoys is often beyond what most organizations could afford on their own. Typically, a company would buy or lease the hardware and software, though data centre providers can own the infrastructure as well.
Many of the reasons companies might consider moving their IT infrastructure to a data centre or hosting facility, as they are often referred to, include the following:
- Physical Security: premises are protected by security staff, surveillance systems, multi-level access control systems including such things as biometrics (fingerprint or palm scans or even retinal scans).
- Backup/Fallback Systems for Emergencies/Outages: utility power and diesel backup generators, multiple unique Internet feeds, HVAC systems.
- Sophisticated fire suppression systems: designed to protect computer and network equipment, rather than destroy it like traditional sprinkler systems would.
- Multi-site disparate locations: protecting against localized natural disasters or other force majeure through replication of your critical systems (and the data that resides within them) to failover site(s) located on the other side of the city or country, or even across the globe!
Data centres or hosting facilities can provide all of this, or if required, manage the entire infrastructure providing companies with the option to reduce IT staffing levels internally if it makes sense to do so, but certainly to enable internal IT staff to be more strategic in nature without being bogged down in the day-to-day operations. Third party organizations often act as the provider of this level of service, supporting, managing and maintaining the IT infrastructure and critical applications for companies with their intimate understanding of the company and its best interests at heart. All of these options serve to reduce a company’s capital expenditures, and allow more of the IT budget to be accounted for as operating expenses, reducing complexity in taxation and depreciation.
Some of the same concerns one might have about Cloud Computing with regards to privacy and security of corporate or client data exist, as a company is giving up a measure of control when hosting infrastructure externally. Should the data being replicated, for fault tolerance and recoverability, reside in another country with different laws about the protection and privacy of information, one must be aware of the risks and ask the datacentre how they mitigate them.
It is important however, not to confuse external hosting of the infrastructure in a data centre with Cloud Computing. Cloud Computing takes this to a whole new level, with the provider owning and managing everything aside from the data, and charging companies with a per-use fee for everything required. Data centres have all been moving towards charging per KWh used to operate the hosted equipment, rather than the old strategy of billing based on the amount of rack-space needed in the facility.
There are criticisms about the amount of electricity used by data centres and the initial set up costs. However they can be designed more efficiently and do amount to significant cost savings in the long run. The reason is that data centres make better use of equipment while internally housed infrastructure requires its own power systems and cooling systems to run computers that are doing much less than they could be.
More and more companies are choosing to move towards data centres as they look to reduce internal staffing levels and options to create or outsource to more energy efficient data centres hoping to reduce their carbon footprint and ultimately their long-term energy costs.
While one size does not fit all in terms of a data centre meeting a company’s needs, the flexibility of the many offerings today will serve to address even the smallest organization’s IT infrastructure hosting requirements. One server or a thousand servers, the requirements are the same, only the scale will change.
Douglas W. Grosfield is President & CEO of Xylotek Solutions Inc., a full service IT solutions provider serving clients’ needs throughout North America for hardware, software and professional services. Xylotek helps clients to augment their internal IT department to be more effective and efficient, reduce their IT spending as well as outsource all of their IT requirements from helpdesk to CIO and everything in between. Winning awards such as Best Tech Workplace (1st place in Canada), and 3rd overall in North America, placing in 2008 and 2009 on the Profit HOT50 Emerging Growth Companies lists, the 2011 Profit 200 Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies list, and the 2011 North American Service Providers Fast Growth 100 list, as well as being a 2011 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year nominee, Xylotek continues to achieve recognition as a trailblazer providing best-in-class offerings to its diverse client base.