What is a data centre?

A server contains the lifeblood of a business. Connected to a business’s local network and usually the internet, a server contains backed up data including customer documents, financial information, and employee details.

Yet, as companies grow so do their data footprints, and physical on-site servers take up substantial space, pose security threats, maintenance challenges and issues with heat. With this is mind, many businesses take the decision to move their data from servers in their own premises to a specialist data centre facility.

But what is a data centre, how do they operate and what advantages do they bring organisations looking to rehome their data?

What is a data centre?

A data centre is a centralised facility used by enterprises to home their business-critical data. This kind of building contains several technical elements which are critical to maintaining the systems needed to keep a company operating. These fall into the following categories:

  • Computing: The memory and processing needed to run applications.
  • Storage: An organisation’s data is stored on solid-state drives, with multiple backups.
  • Networking: Interconnections between data centre components and the outside world, such as switches, routers, and application-delivery components.


What is the purpose of a data centre?

The main purpose of a data centre is to store and process an organisation’s critical data.


How do data centres operate?

Data centres operate by protecting the performance of the below core data centre components:

  • Network security appliances: These include firewalls and any security that is going to safeguard the information housed in the data centre.
  • Application delivery insurance: This is designed to maintain the performance of applications within the data centre. These mechanisms keep applications robust and resilient.


How is a data centre designed?

A data centre is designed with a network of computing and storage resources that enable shared applications and data to be accessed.

The key components of a data centre design include:

  • Routers
  • Switches
  • Storage systems
  • Firewalls
  • Servers
  • Application-delivery controllers


Why are data centres important to business?

Countless organisations across the world take the decision to use a data centre to house their business-critical data. Data centres are not only a crucial security measure, but they deliver countless advantages to enterprises:

  • Savings on electricity and valuable floor space
  • Cost savings on expanding or reducing current IT infrastructure
  • Peace of mind that business-critical data is housed in a safe and secure location
  • Saving significantly if company servers were lost due to theft, fire, flood or a power cut
  • An eco-friendly option, emitting less heat, and using less electricity and carbon dioxide


What is in a data centre facility?

There is significant infrastructure found within a data centre facility which is vital to support its vast amount of hardware and software. These include:

  • Connections to external networks
  • Backup generators
  • Ventilation and cooling systems
  • Power subsystems
  • Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS)
  • Fire suppression systems


How many data centres in the UK?

It is estimated that there are approximately 250 operational colocation data centres in the UK. This type of data centre is characterised by its server rental space.


How many data centres in the world?

It is estimated that there are 7.2 million data centres worldwide.


How to make data centres more environmentally friendly

Historically, data centres have used large-scale air conditioning units to supply cold air to keep server rooms at the required temperature. These units are costly to run and use a significant amount of electricity.

More recently, data centres have introduced more eco-friendly cooling techniques, enabling them to reduce the amount of electricity and carbon dioxide involved in the cooling process by 90 per cent. Not only is this a more environmentally friendly approach, but it helps data centres keep costs down for their customers.