If you have recently heard the word data center and were curious about its meaning, the explanation is simple: a data center is a computer structure where all the digital resources that are important for the operation of a company are concentrated.
In your case, these digital resources can be:
- The files saved on your employees' computers
- The invoices and sales slips that your accountant asks you for at the end of the month
- The software your company uses to streamline the services it provides
In other words: resources of daily use that must be centralized and protected to never compromise the continuity and agility of your operations.
But why are companies abandoning the old paradigm of "every computer with its programs and files"?
First of all, because of the tons of data that is produced every day. The global economy and each of us stores data faster and faster, in ever greater quantities:
Some data centers are so large that they occupy thousands of square meters of underground space. Others are the size of a small closet in a local company founder's office. What is certain is that regardless of how big they are, the demand for data centers continues to grow!
It is estimated that companies that implement data centers will produce twice as much profit in 2025 as they did in 2019 - in a market that will exceed $58 billion annually. And beware: this growth is increasingly the responsibility of small and medium-sized businesses!
Now that you know:
- What is a data center
- Why the demand for data centers is growing
Ready to find out whether or not a data center is useful for a company like yours?
What are the advantages of a data center for a small or medium-sized company?
If we had to come up with a short list of the main reasons why a company should implement a data center, they would probably be:
1 - Costs
- Companies want to industrialize their production chain to decrease production costs and speed up their response times
- Companies spend less on maintaining a centralized IT infrastructure than on multiple individual pieces of equipment
- Periodically, companies need more storage, RAM, or processing power and spend less to upgrade a data center than several individual pieces of equipment
In other words: companies want to save.
But there are other advantages to using a data center, perhaps even more important than cost savings. For example?
2 - Stability
If a company is looking for a data center it is likely that its employees and/or customers need full-time access to data and files:
- Or because that company operates without interruptions;
- Or because the company has employees on telecommuting who need to remotely access company applications, data or files;
- Or simply because the company is tired of living with the disorganization of the conventional system?
...you know what we are talking about, right?
We are talking about:
- Thousands of documents and applications spread across the company's countless computers, where no one ever knows anything;
- Some of these computers have more capacity than others and the operation "bogs down" on some contributors;
- In certain parts of the company the internet access is faster and the operation "runs aground" at some points in the operation;
- What's more, there are parts of the company where the electricity is unstable and machines fail during the operation, which ends up being delayed.
This lack of stability becomes stressful for you, causes slower service, and progressively wears down your brand reputation.
Fortunately, any of these problems are eliminated with the implementation of a data center, which guarantees:
- The same capacity, in terms of processing speed, RAM, and storage for all the equipment critical to the operation;
- Flawless internet access with the same speed in the various areas of the company involved in the operation;
- And of course: systems that ensure continued operation, even when there are electrical problems that would otherwise cause the machines to stop.
3 - Security
One of the greatest concerns of companies these days is the security of the information they store: almost always confidential business secrets or personal information of their customers.
Morebiz IT - Solutions recently shared an Interpol report that reveals shocking data on this subject: +907,000 companies have been infected with pandemic viruses, in one of the largest waves of cybercrime recorded in recent years.
This risk is real and all the greater, the worse prepared a company is.
How do you know if yours is ready?
We know that a company that chooses to store data and applications on its various computers is subject to complete downtime if it does:
- There is a fire or electrical problem that blocks or destroys one or several stages of your production chain;
- There is a theft or hacking that destroys key elements (such as customer billing data) to the smooth running of the operation;
- There is a lawsuit for leaking personal data that forces it to go bankrupt for the amount of compensation owed.
The security of data and processes is so important that access to the world's largest data centers is strictly controlled 24 hours a day by the world's best security companies.
But even if your company is not one of the largest in the world, it is natural that you are already imagining the impact that a data center would have on the quality of your company's operation...
...the hard part is knowing where to start!
What types of data centers exist and which one is right for you?
For the sake of simplicity, let's start by dividing data centers into two categories: on-premises and virtual.
A local data center is unique to a company: it implies that space and investment are allocated to set up a physical computing structure on its premises.
- Provides full autonomy in terms of resources and security
- It can translate to lower long-term costs (if the data center is small).
- Requires a high initial investment
- Requires an IT team or an IT partner who can manage it
On the other hand, a virtual data center is a type of 100% digital infrastructure - which we usually know as the cloud.
In practice, think of companies like Microsoft or Google that sell space on their servers: both for storage and for access to applications that integrate your company's operations.
- It requires a low initial investment
- The maintenance and security of the infrastructure is left to third parties
- The vendor is responsible for updating the system and you as a rule work with state-of-the-art technology
- It is more flexible: the company pays only for storage or access to the applications it needs
- May imply a higher cost over time
- The company is subject to third-party security breaches
There are also other, usually smaller, companies that maintain local data centers and sell some modular solutions as a service. Get to know some of them:
Software as a service: such as MOQI, an eLearning platform where companies' training managers host their employees' training courses.
The application that allows a student to watch and interact with a video lesson is not hosted in a physical storage, in the company itself: it is on MOQI's servers, which is responsible for the unconditional access and security of the employees in the training process.
The platforms as a service. Like for example Facebook, a social platform where cybernauts share stories, content, and communicate daily.
All shared videos and photos are not hosted on the physical storage (of the user's cell phone or personal computer): they are on Facebook's servers, which is responsible for ensuring that its community has access and control over the information it shares.
Say goodbye to periodic computer replacement and endless costs for ongoing computer support.
With desktop virtualization, the operating system of your company's computers (and the applications your employees use) become outside your company's computers. What for:
- Your company's computers don't need to meet the minimum performance requirementsof the applications they use;
- Increase security levels and prevent business-critical applications from being erased or corrupted due to personal accidents or negligent use.
There are other, more specific solutions that allow you to use particular capabilities of a data center. But for the sake of simplicity, let's focus on what is really important to you...
On-premise or virtual: which data center should I choose?
In some of the cases, a virtual data center is less costly than maintaining a physical data center. Essentially because it will not be needed:
- Invest in computer equipment and upgrade it periodically;
- Hire qualified professionals to set up and maintain the infrastructure;
- Having expenses for rent, energy and maintenance of the physical space that houses the data center.
The economic factor, in the vast majority of cases, is enough to make the choice.
What's more, by opting for a virtual server, you end up working with more modern technologies, whose acquisition and implementation is entirely the responsibility of your vendor.
But calm down.
We are not saying that every company should go for the cloud. As we have seen, there are strengths and weaknesses in a local server, which are of interest to some companies...
...and there are cases where working with a virtual data center is more expensive!
But I admit that in the vast majority of cases companies start with a virtual server.
Problem: You have no idea how to choose the best virtual data center for your company out of the thousands of options available on the market. Fortunately, that is what the next chapter is all about!
How to choose the best virtual data center?
It is an absolutely shocking statistic: 93% of companies that suffered from a breach in access to their data center for +10 days filed for bankruptcy one year after the incident.
If you want to take advantage of a data center, don't take this step lightly. A study conducted by the Ponemon Institute also reveals that server downtime can cost companies up to $300,000 an hour!
The importance of this decision is obvious. And because choosing the right data center (and provider) is so important, we leave you with 7 tips that can help you decide:
1 - Analyze the provider's credibility (for virtual data center)
If you are thinking of hiring a virtual server, start by asking your next provider what policy they have regarding data recovery in case of a crash:
- Does the provider take responsibility?
- Are there backups that safeguard your data?
To the untrained manager, these kinds of questions may sound like excessive worry. But as we have seen, a disaster of this nature can wipe out your company in less than a year!
2 – Find out about the services available (for virtual data center)
Let's assume that your company today only needs to centralize data and file storage. But you already know that you will need to virtualize desktops to run applications needed for operation in future business...
...does your future provider provide this service?
What I'm trying to say is: make sure there is scalability. The worst feeling in the world is to spend weeks or months preparing your company's digital transformation, only to have to do it all over again six months later!
3 – Evaluate the quality of support (for virtual data center)
Remember we told you that 93% of companies that experienced a breach in access to their data center for +10 days went bankrupt?
They probably suffered the consequences of a delayed or inexperienced technical assistance, which extended the time of the problem resolution. Because mistakes always happen... even with the best providers in the world!
You must go to the end of the world to avoid being left without an answer when trouble comes.
Tip: Maximum response times should be stipulated in advance, before signing an agreement with your provider. Remember that unforeseen events happen:
- During a family dinner;
- On a festive date, such as Christmas or the New Year;
- At four in the morning, when most of the city is still asleep.
And of course: in the event that help is not readily available, it is your company and your customers who foot the bill!
4 – Confirm that there is an abundant and reliable power supply (for local and virtual data center)
As a rule, a data center requires a large amount of energy to operate.
So that its operation is never interrupted, it is highly recommended that this power supply be protected against interruptions...
...but how do you find out if your provider has taken these kinds of precautions?
Ask if the power that powers your data center has a backup supply that can be made available once the main source goes out. For example, a UPS back-up that protects vital equipment from an abrupt power cut that could damage it.
5 – Confirm that appropriate conditions exist for cooling the infrastructure (for local and virtual data center)
As it is easy to imagine, the endless amount of machines and computers that make up a data center...
...warm like the Algarve on a summer's day!
Unfortunately, hydraulic fire systems cannot be used to protect computer equipment, in data centers.
Instead, it is common to use fire-retardant chemicals, which smother and control the flames in the event of a fire without harming the electronic equipment in the infrastructure.
As a matter of conscience, ask your ISP if there are any overheating problems that frequently delay or interrupt access to your data center. If so, there is still time to find a workaround!
6 – Evaluate the quality of telecommunications (for local and virtual data center)
It is no use having a data center protected against theft, power outages, and overheating if there is no fast and uninterrupted Internet connection.
Tip: ask your provider if the connection is built with fiber optics...
...I'll tell you why!
Many people do not know that access to the cloud happens indirectly. When you try to access a virtual data center, the entry to the system is through a router that manages the cable distribution between the various racks in the data center...
...that is: only after passing through the router do you have access to the destination you intend to reach!
It is easy to imagine that if your internet network is antiquated, this process can extend ad eternum and slow down your company's production chain.
The good news: with fiber, access is instantaneous and usually trouble-free.
7 – Question the security procedures (for virtual data center)
Remember that the data and applications stored in the cloud are critical to the operation of your business...
...and that a confidential data breach can cost your company hundreds of thousands of euros!
The room that houses your provider's data center should be protected by:
- Virtual security measures, such as firewalls or authentication systems
- Physical security measures, such as security companies
- Physical blocks, such as restricting free access
- 24-hour video surveillance
It's time to take stock.
You have learned:
- What is a data center;
- What are the advantages of a data center for a company;
- What types of data centers exist and which one is right for your company;
- How to choose the best virtual data centerfor your company.
Let's assume that your decision is to actually start using a data center...
...and you already know which data center is best for your company...
...what is the first step from here?
Checklist: Data Center Migration
Use this list to ensure that the process of migrating critical data and applications to your data center (local or virtual) runs smoothly:
Lead the operation (applies to local or virtual migration)
- Appoint the team that will be in charge of the migration process. If your IT partner will be responsible for the entire operation, set deadlines, costs, and trade-offs in case of accidents or negligence;
- Schedule your migration strategy. Transferring data means not being able to access machines or files during the period when the migration takes place. Make sure that the entire enterprise does not stop at the same time;
- Set a budget. Technical problems and delays can happen, but make sure that the price of the operation does not double or triple. And define with the team that manages the migration (if it is external) the limit beyond which the responsibility for problems and delays is no longer borne by you.
Audit the raw material that integrates the process (migration to local applies)
- Take an inventory of the equipment that will be migrated to your new data center to ensure that no data is lost or machines damaged in the process;
- Make sure that all hardware, cables and racksare identified. There are small stickers or labels, specifically designed for this purpose:
- Schedule software or equipment updates that are critical to the operation of your production chain, and make sure there are alarms and reminders that remind you (or the designated responsible party) of these updates;
- Confirm the space, power, cooling, and Internet access you need before you begin the migration. And if so, send this information to the IT partner responsible for building the infrastructure;
- Remember to ask your rack supplier to refine the system structures and physical circuits for the required electrical redundancy;
- Confirm the number and dimensions of the racks needed to build your data center just as you envisioned it;
- Confirm that the physical space where the data center will rise can accommodate both the technology infrastructure you need now and future equipment your company will need in the coming years;
- Make a final confirmation of the physical and digital security of the entire system, before making it accessible to all your employees;
- If available, confirm the operation of uninterruptible power systems (UPS) that guarantee the continuity of your production chain in case of an unexpected power cut;
- This caution seems strange but we always recommend it: make sure that the machines turn on again after being turned off, in this new technological environment.
Digital care you need to have (applies to migration to local or virtual)
- Consider replicating some data and files critical to the operation of your system. For example, did you know that your company is required by law to keep accounting documents for ten years?
- Understand the specific connection and speed needs of the various sectors of your company. For example: if the company's computers connect to the Internet via WiFi, the office farthest from the router will take longer to access the files stored in the data center, which may affect your production chain;
- Test the P2P circuits of the system and define which poles should have a direct connection to each other (in telecommunications, a P2P connection refers to a direct connection between two poles). For example: your accounting department should have access to the storage that holds invoices and sales slips, but your marketing department should not;
- Review the decisions you have made about on-site Internet access and the connections you have established between the various data center hubs. Your IT consultant will help you understand whether the plan you have laid out meets the needs of your supply chain.
Transportation and security: protect yourself before the harm is done (applies to site migration)
- Set a deadline for the entire migration process. Remember to plan how long the systems can be offline, so that the company's production chain is not compromised;
- Confirm that there are backups for all the information to be migrated and that there are systems in place to protect you from the accidents that can happen in such a process;
- Define an alternative action plan to secure your company's production chain if accidents occur during the process;
- Remember to ensure the correct accommodation of equipment when transporting to the new location and, if necessary, hire the support of armed security during the transport of disks with valuable data and trade secrets;
- Clearly define how the equipment to be transported will enter the data center room. This should include measuring the width and height of doors and windows through which the equipment will pass;
- If you need the help of a carrier, make sure it is a reputable company that is aware of all the care and specifications you have recorded up to this point. Also make sure that you inform them of the entry points of the equipment into the building, such as garages or unloading points.
Assess your vendor's capabilities (applies to on-premise and virtual migration)
- Review all the details of the migration plan in the company of your physical space or cloud storage provider. It will help you spot errors or lapses that could compromise the security of the data and equipment being migrated;
- Clearly define the roles that the data center manager will assume during the migration, throughout the entire period in which the process will take place;
- If you are migrating data and equipment to a physical data center, make it clear who is responsible for providing the cabling and other ancillary materials such as cable labels;
- Clarify if, during the period in which the process will take place, there will be staff on site to assist you with the installation and setup of the transported equipment;
- Before making a final decision, ask if support is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and review terms, conditions, and company policies regarding customer service. Americans use the term SLA for this agreement: it stands for service-level agreement and defines the level of service that the vendor agrees to ensure, as well as the metrics that measure this commitment!
The ball is on your side.
If you are ready to start for a new era of work, with more security and (much) more productivity, everything you need to know is in this article.
If you feel you need support implementing some of these solutions, remember that you can schedule a free 30-minute meeting with one of our experts. Even if you are not ready to make an investment in a complete data center, we will explain how to streamline your production machine with some of these technologies!