IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality


  • 16 Jul

Data Centre “Hot Topics”

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Dan SmithWhilst considering the design of your Data Centre and the pros and cons of various providers, there are numerous factors to weigh up.When it comes to security, any retail data needs to be held in a tested PCI-DSS compliant environment. This is because PCI-DSS compliance is not an opt-in; it’s unavoidable. However, I have observed that the ever-changing PCI-DSS requirements can prove a challenge for retailers and, as is frequently the case with legislative topics the approach is not always obvious. In fact, many companies are overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of information that exists on the subject. For them, selecting a trusted provider is paramount in order to draw upon their specialist knowledge.

Financial security is another important factor when selecting a Data Centre provider, as it goes without saying that nobody would want their vital business data in the hands of a company whose future is uncertain. This issue has not only been brought centre-stage due to the economic downturn, but also because newer Data Centres have been “leapfrogging” their larger, older competitors. Many new Data Centres are cheaper to run and build than their longer running counterparts, making the latter obsolete over time unless they develop and adapt. In most cases, newer Data Centres are also more energy-efficient.

Last year, Facebook revealed details regarding its Data Centre, which was estimated to be 38% more efficient and 24% less expensive to build than conventional designs. One aspect of the new design, which has been tipped to gain popularity, is running the Data Centre temperatures as high as 27 degrees Celsius, as opposed to the 20 degrees Celsius that they are commonly set at today.

In recent best practice guides, it has been suggested that the direct use of waste Data Centre heat for low temperature heating applications, such as preheating ventilation air for buildings or heating water, can supply the provider with energy-efficiency savings. Perhaps at some point we will see Data Centres using their waste heat for other commercial ventures – as some power stations have already done – such as heating greenhouses which are used to produce exotic fruit or vegetables.

Whilst energy efficiency is an important factor for Data Centres, it must not override all other considerations. For example, using centralised air-handling systems is generally considered to be more efficient.  However, there can be problems of redundancy or failover. The large motors and fans used by some providers could potentially expose the Data Centre to risk if there is no back-up in the event of the central system failing. Multiple smaller or modular systems may be better in this ‘worst case scenario”.

In fact, the general consensus that “bigger is better” when it comes to Data Centres is not always the case. Businesses may want to re-evaluate the relationships that they have with their current provider, and consider the value of working with a partner who can provide a bespoke or tailored service. The idea of a Data Centre being “small enough to care, but big enough to cope” is an important one.

Finally, a ratio that is rarely explored regarding Data Centre estate management is that of staff to servers, or racks. Nevertheless this is an important factor.  It would be interesting to see how some larger Data Centres would react if a major issue arose as they do not necessarily have the required manpower to cope. A team with sufficient resources and training, particularly one with relevant accreditations such as ISO20000, is invaluable in such situations.

Are there any other current Data Centre “Hot Topics” that you can think of? Post your comments below or email info@retail-assist.co.uk.

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