Preparing for a Data Center

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Depending on the size of the company or amount of information processed a data center can be a small closet or an entire room full of servers, phones systems, data racks, and relay racks with possibly hundreds of cables coming in to the room. The importance of a data center is often overlooked because it’s locked away, but a data center is the brain and nervous system of any organization. Having the right equipment in a data center is important to provide the type of service that the company may require. This equipment also needs to be properly stored and mounted while still being prepared for expansion in the future.

In a data center there is generally one area where all the cables come into the room and having all the cable come in at one point can simplify the lay out of the data center. Once the cable comes in from the ceiling, it is laid down on a cable ladder rack, which then runs along possible curves, bends and drops until it reaches the relay rack, data rack, or data cabinet. Within the data rack the cable runs along the vertical wire management or horizontal cable management until it’s punched down to a patch panel.

When designing a data center many factors come into play, including: redundancy, security, and future growth.

Redundancy is extremely important in a data center concerning both the voice and data cables and power supplies. Having redundant cable routes can help prevent work stoppage; should they get damaged there must be another way to communicate information. Having a LAN (local area network) with a physical and wireless network allows for a backup in case one fails. Having redundancy in the WAN (wide area network) is also important. For example, subscribing to two different ISPs (internet service providers) means that there will always be at least one way to access a WAN in case one fails. Power supply backups are essential to preventing a network from failing or losing information, which can be accomplished with battery backups and UPSs (uninterruptible power supplies).

When considering the security of a network and data center, the immediate thought is passwords and encryption; however, physical security is just as important. Of course, locked doors and a secure building/room can improve security, but considering a secure data racks provides further security with the protection of its own key-based security system. Secure data racks are lock-protected and completely enclosed with ventilation slots as well as optional (and recommended) fans for airflow, allowing maximum security for your equipment.

Lastly, when creating a data center or data room, considering the future is extremely important. Company growth is always expected and as a company grows, so does its data center. Preparing for such growth is necessary in order to prevent an outgrown data center and ultimately causing a very expensive problem. A typical data rack is standard-sized at seven feet tall with 42 unit spaces (42U) and most data rack mountable equipment takes up one or two units (1U and 2U). Therefore, leaving extra space on the data racks and within the data center for growth can prevent the expensive alternatives of moving your equipment or constructing more space. Also, consider using advanced equipment for future growth versus remaining with what's only necessary at the beginning. For example, Cat5e cable may work for your needs now, but in two years, Cat6 or Cat6a may be required. Therefore, rather than replacing the required cable again, consider using more advanced materials and equipment the first time.