For over twenty years now the Internet has been making our lives easier and more efficient. We’re able to communicate faster and more freely, work on our own time, create with more power, discover and learn things we might never otherwise have encountered, and become more active in our communities. While we all benefit in many ways from this innovation, we often take it for granted as well. Sometimes it seems like the Internet is a magical utility that has existed in the ether for ages, which is of course not the case. In reality, the massive amounts of data that are created and distributed every second in the virtual space need to be stored somewhere. This digital data needs a physical home, so to speak.
Of course, processing power has been exponentially increasing ever since data storage became necessary. Today, for instance, our smartphones are more powerful and efficient than the computers of the 1960s and 70s that took up entire rooms. But when you consider the sheer amount of data in the digital world, it makes sense that there is still a need for large data centers. Even if you’ve never seen a data center in person, they’re often depicted in film and television. In Pixar’s recent film about human psychology “Inside Out,” the protagonists’ brain (a kind of biological data center) is represented as a colorful data center. Picture a hallway, or several hallways filled with racks of networked computers. These computers are all speaking to each other in digital language, processing and storing data, sort of like a big external brain.
Data centers are necessary for large corporations with several operations and locations. All of this data needs to be backed up for business continuity purposes. There are other uses for data centers, but they all come back to the central purpose of storing large amounts of data. With so much computing power in one location, it raises the question of safety. How can all of this important machinery be kept safe and prevented from destroying itself? These are obviously main concerns for those who construct and maintain these centers. Here are two crucial considerations implemented to secure this data and keep the facilities safe.
1) Server Rack Enclosures
For protecting individual servers from physical damage, server rack enclosures are used. These racks, as their name suggests, snugly enclose a server while providing space for cables to be organized and airflow to pass from the server through the rack. There are several kinds of server rack enclosures, such as wall-mount racks, floor racks, open-frame racks, enclosed racks, and more. Additionally, there are various server rack sizes to accommodate servers of different sizes.
2) Cold/Hot Aisle Containment
The other major consideration for data centers is heat. Most of us know from streaming movies or playing games on our phones and laptops that it doesn’t take much to heat up a device. Just like the ventilation systems in our personal computers, data centers need proper airflow as well to prevent overheating. The way this airflow is managed is called cold aisle containment and hot aisle containment. This basically refers to the way in which hot air given off from the servers is directed to a cooling system, and then recirculated throughout the system. These containment systems are safe, effective, and efficient at reducing energy costs.
You may never encounter a data center in person, but it’s still good to know about their existence. All of this data seemingly floating around in the atmosphere needs to go somewhere. Data centers are the brains of the digital age, and they’ll continue to get smarter, safer, and more efficient.