What is a Data Centre?

A data centre is a physical facility that companies use to house their business-critical applications and information. As companies evolve, it is essential to think long-term about how they can maintain the reliability and uptime of their business-critical software systems.

Data centres are often described as a singular thing. Still, in reality, they consist of a multitude of components such as servers, storage as well as support infrastructures such as network, power management, backup generators, cooling systems (HVAC), fire detection & suppression and user access control.

The support infrastructure can consume up to 80 per cent of the total capacity of a data centre. 

These systems need to be managed by a 24/7/365 team of skilled IT technicians and moving systems from dedicated hardware in-house can often reduce the burden for IT teams.

Choosing a data centre for your business model can be crucial, as data centres can be indispensable for large corporations and even small and medium-sized enterprises are following the trend. 

Moving to a data centre offers excellent flexibility in both terms of storage, network infrastructure (often 100GB+ speeds) and availability of remote agents. 

Colocation in a Data Centre

One of the most well-known types of data centre hosting is known as colocation. Colo (colocation data centre) is a room that a data centre rents out to companies. Colocation is great for companies that wish to manage their hardware, yet utilise data centres excellent features such as fast fibre internet and backup network/power/cooling systems.

Companies that wish to use colocation will manage all components in the room, such as servers, storage systems, security and firewalls, while the data centre manages cooling, network and power systems.

The relocation, expansion, or consolidation of data centres is a complex process that must be weighed against the long-term viability of an organisation as a whole, as well as its financial and operational viability.

With these considerations in mind, more and more companies are finding that colocation can provide the solution they need without having to manage their own data centres. Also known simply as "colos," data centre colocations are services provided by companies that provide shared, secure storage space for hardware related to data storage and other devices. 

Corporate customers engage Colo businesses in ways similar to how customers store equipment in their homes or offices, such as a garage or warehouse.

Colocation customers typically rent storage space, typically in server cabinets, from data centres. They fill the server cabinet with their hardware, and network and power is provided into the cabinet.

Data Centre Types

A data centre can be defined by its various levels of reliability and resilience, sometimes referred to as its levels. 

Some data centres are assembled from shipping containers, also known as "data centre boxes," which can be moved and used when needed. 

Small businesses can work with multiple servers and storage arrays networked in server rack cabinets or small rooms, while massive warehouses can be filled with data centre equipment and infrastructure. 

In 2005, the US Department of Energy's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published a report entitled "Defining a Data Center: A Comprehensive Guide to Information Security and Resilience," which helped shape the role of data centres in the United States and the global economy. 

Cloud Providers and Data Centres

With cloud hosting and virtual servers, companies can use private cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) over colocation, eliminating the hardware costs and management.

Cloud service providers provide virtualised data centres to take on the role of the traditional data centre and networking company in the global economy. 

These providers share virtual network and storage servers between multiple companies and shift storage, workload and processing from server to server as needed. 

Since the services they provide, including networking, server provisioning and firewall management are delivered via software rather than hardware, they are known as "software-defined" data centres. 

Virtualisation and the cloud transform the data centre, enabling it to react flexibly and responsibly to load fluctuations in real-time and manage large amounts of data.

A virtualised data centre also gives companies more flexibility in selecting their hardware, as cloud-based infrastructure and service platforms (IaaS) run on a variety of different hardware. 

Combined with private or public clouds, using virtual data centres and infrastructure enables companies to save money on space and power in physical infrastructure. 

Software-defined data centres can be cheaper - more effective than building and maintaining a physical data centre. 

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