Best Solutions for data storage and compute resources
When it comes to data storage, the issue on everyones mind is safety. Safety in protecting data from machine failures, corruption or loss as well as from attacks and theft. Most companies are faced with the dilemma whether to store it on company premises or in a professionally managed Data Centre.
Doing business in todays world means being able to store and compute vast amounts of data. Whether we are talking about application databases, CCTV footage, man or machine created data, the capacity for its safe storage is constantly growing.
A large company with substantial resources might feel safer by keeping all its data close, storing it in its own server room, managed by its own technicians. But is this feeling real? Or is it is safer to use the resources of a professionally managed data centre? This article aims to help you cut through the pros and cons and help you make the best decision for your company.
What is a Server Room?
To begin, we need to clarify terms. A server room is a place, on customer premises, adapted to keep and maintain servers stacked in racks as well as network equipment and other necessary hardware. The room is usually adapted for that specific purpose. It needs to have a reliable power supply, backup power in the form of emergency diesel generators for power redundancy, batteries and UPS’s to stabilise electricity and help at times of short power outages, fire suppression systems that can hold the fire from not spreading outside and extinguishing it before too much damage is done, redundant connectivity, cooling, network security and many other features keeping the hardware and data secure. The air cooling system and room arrangement should keep the servers cool allowing for the hot air to move out and not circle back to overheat the servers. It should also filter contaminants and other particulate matter from the air keeping the room clean from dust or other tiny matter that can cause hardware malfunction. The server room, being within your place of business, is easy to access by your personnel. The in-house IT team ensures the safety and security of your compute resources and data.
What is a Data Centre?
A Data Centre is an entire building or group of buildings that are dedicated to the same function as a server room. A dedicated Data Centre, is a safe and secure purposefully build facility providing Colocation and / or Cloud Computing services. It very likely serves a number of customers, housing equipment, storing data, acting as a backup disaster recovery site and more. Many data centres provide just the tele-housing infrastructure, including power and air cooling, while customers bring their own servers. Others provide a complete service including rental of physical servers. A Cloud Providing Data Centre will go a step further to provide all these services in the cloud, offering Virtual Machines instead of physical servers.
Data Centre customers are companies looking to use professionally managed IT services for their betterment, making best use of the benefits provided. One such benefit is scalability. A company starting its operations today might outgrow its data storage and compute resources in 3months, 6 months, who knows? Data storage and compute resources should never be seen as a bottleneck for the growth of a company. But how does one know today what resources you will need on a daily, monthly yearly level? What will be the average usage? What will be the usage at peak levels? What if the procurement process for a rack and servers lasts weeks or months? What if a company can easily handle average usage, but fails to handle peaks?
In the end, it is your business and you will know what is best for your data and what compute resources you may require. No one can take that decision for you. But in order to help you make it, let’s look closer into the details and make sure you make a well-informed decision.
Server Rooms – Pros and Cons
One of the main claims that senior managers make about having their own server room in house is the feeling of control. When the server room is right there on your premises, you alone retain control of things like security and application uptime. Having the kind of control to know the person who maintains your data room, may be a priority for you. You can be fairly certain that only your own vetted personnel will have access to the data, and that access will be given in the manner in which you decide. Moreover, you are able to make changes in the access hierarchy as often as you may need.
Having your own server room also gives purpose to developing an in-house IT team to manage those resources.
Having this type of control, however, involves certain risks, such as dependancy on your IT staff, management focus on IT rather than core business, a CAPEX investment without certainty as far as what capacity that investment will cover in time and whether the company has over-invested or underinvested and more.
A server room is a costly resource. Aside from the question of actual real estate and the amount of space you are able to dedicate to a server room in your company, there is the upfront investment cost and maintenance with no economy of scale. Building the room, installing the power and cooling systems, the backups and redundant hardware, and everything else that goes with it can be a considerable expense. To cater for future use or even peak usage a company might need to overcompensate with space, backup power and cooling, not to find itself in 6 months buying another diesel generator or having to move to a bigger room due to lack of space.
Once you have built up your primary system, you have to consider business continuity in the case of a natural disaster such as flood or fire. Having your data and its backups all in one place means that recovery after such a disaster may be impossible.
It is important to think about the people who will be maintaining and servicing your hardware. In most cases, it is the same IT department that you need for developing innovations and working on projects. Unless you are able to employ a dedicated maintenance team, they will have to split their time between the server room and their regular work. This could cause slowdowns or lost opportunities. The same people once they leave the company may leave a void hard to fill as the system is dependent on them and the unique knowledge they have as they assembled and maintained it.
Professionally managed Data Centres – Pros and Cons
Using a Data Centre has many attractive advantages, for small and medium sized companies, startup businesses growing exponentially fast, large companies with complex IT systems that need heightened security, capacity optimisation and cost efficiency.
One of the biggest advantages of a Data Centre is that it provides cost efficiency through economies of scale. Because a Data Centre is typically a much larger purpose-built facility meant to house hardware and provide services for numerous external customers, it achieves cost savings on power, connectivity and hardware that it transfers to its customers. A company can procure all these individually, but it would be very hard for it to match the rates a Data Centre gets simply due to sheer volume.
In addition, a Data Centre can provide higher quality service with regards to security, redundancy, durability, speed and scaleability when compared to a data room. Often a data room is one that is adapted to the purpose out of need, but Data Centres are built from the ground up for that purpose, enabling them to provide much more reliability and security. Power systems are installed with the specific need of the servers in mind, including backup generators, surge protection, and other safeguards. The cooling and air filtration system is also designed from the beginning to the needs of the server bank.
Capacity planning is much easier when working with a Data Centre that provides Cloud Computing, as resources are made available to customers in a matter of seconds. If you need to increase or in fact decrease your compute or storage capacity, you can do it with a push of a button or automatically in the case of peak hour scaling. No long procurement processes, no CAPEX investments. Some Data Centres also provide very flexible billing, with significant discounts for medium to long term commitment.
In terms of security, Data Centres invest in the highest network and physical security. They provide DDoS protection included in even the basic services and your data cannot be access or seen by Data Centre technicians as it is kept encrypted. A Data Centre, moreover, is usually modular, allowing for data replication, keeping it safe in several redundant availability zones. All of this is maintained by a staff of experts from the Data Centre provider, meaning that your IT department is free to perform other critical tasks.
If there is any real disadvantage to working with Data Centres, it may be that they are in very high demand and that they may not be able to accept your business at the time that you need it. This can easily be solved by planning in advance and starting the migration process to Colocation or Cloud Computing on time.
While it is impossible to make a recommendation for your company without knowing its specifics, it is clear that the advantages of working with a Data Centre far exceed that of having a data room on your premises. In the final analysis, the main advantage of having a server room is in the feeling of control over your data and compute resources. It might seem as though a company would feel more in control over who has access to its data the closer it is to being under the same roof.
However, a stronger argument is that a Data Centre, whose main purpose is to provide a safe and secure environment for your data, has a more vested interest in doing its very best for you, the customer, so it can expand its business and grow its customer base. There is no margin for error when data safety and security is at stake.
The chart below recaps a few of the topics we discussed here:
|Feature||Server Room||Data Center|
|Security: how safe is your data?||Security provided by the in-house IT team, at the level they are able.||Physical and network security, DDoS attack ready, data replication, data encryption, redundant power supply and connectivity.|
|Access: who can have access to data?||On-site, depending on company policy||Only the people given permission by you|
|Maintenance: upkeep, physical facility, and administration||Your responsibility and cost to maintain systems, security, power grid, etc.||Data Center administers maintenance, fees split among clients, 24/7 presence|
|Costs: what’s the bottom line?||CAPEX investment + monthly maintenance costs||OPEX|
|Company focus||IT + core business||Core business|
|Hard currency||Yes, for hardware purchasing||No|
|Speed to market||Depending on procurement process from days to weeks||In minutes|
|Personnel: who will staff the servers?||Your payroll, potential split work, potential risk when they leave the company||Professional Data Centre trained technicians, A/B teams|
|Structure: what kind of building will it be?||Adapted, higher risk due to lower redundancy, one availability zone||Purpose built, high redundancy, multiple availability zones|
|Expansion: how much can I grow?||Limited space, high cost||Unlimited scalability|
|Innovation||Limited to company ability to keep up with constant new hardware and software upgrades||Constant new services being researched and launched to become more attractive to customers and better than the competition, based on latest technology.|
Pro Tips: When Should You Move Your Data to a Data Centre?
If a Data Centre just makes a lot more sense for you, when would the best moment be to migrate? It’s always good to start the process before you need the resources. However, you should make the move when:
- Your in-house server room is no longer adequate to your needs
- Your peak capacity significantly increases over your average capacity
- Your IT department is spending too much time working on server maintenance and not enough time developing new products
- Your business is expanding beyond your current capacities
- You need to keep CAPEX low and need to move to an OPEX model
- You need the data room space for other purposes and cannot relocate your servers easily on your own property
- You need a bigger data room
- You have concerns about the power systems in your building, putting your data at risk of surges or outages
- You need to increase data security
- You have a need to share your data with more than one remote location around the world
- The costs associated with your data storage are becoming too high to justify maintaining your own data room
- You want to modernise your hardware and increase scale
- You need to implement a better Business Continuity system
- You had an experience in-house with data loss, data corruption, lower than acceptable uptime
Find Out More
There are many kinds of Data Centres offering their services globally. What you need to consider is the location of the Data Centre, that it is close to where your users are; that it offers Colocation as well as Cloud Computing in case you need to relocate your hardware or completely move to the Cloud; that it has certificates from globally renowned institutions like the Uptime Institute, that it provides top of the line security, data durability, scaleability, and – of course – cost efficiency.
Sun Data World, the first Ethiopian Data Centre, has been conceived and built to meet all these needs as well as anticipate many others. Sun Data World exists in fact because you need to have a good answer to the question of data room vs. Data Centre. A Data Centre like Sun Data World makes sense across the board. Our collocation service allows you to install your hardware at our state-of-the-art facility and begin saving money immediately while boosting your output and efficiency!
For more information, please contact us today at Sun Data World.