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Back in the day, when personal computer technology was starting to emerge following the rise of the mainframe, computer data centers became the subject of everything from movie scenes to amusement park rides to comic books. From films like “2001: A Space Odyssey” to “Skyfall” and “The Matrix,” to the Spaceship Earth ride at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center, to the 1966 edition (Vol. 1, #52) of Marvel’s comic book Fantastic Four, data centers have played a key role in depicting the way technology has influenced society, the military, government, business, and life in general.
The image of a sprawling room full of racks stacked high with computer servers on raised floors, connected by a labyrinth of colorful cables, and bathed in darkness save for tiny flashing lights makes you think of the fabled machine rooms of the past. But in reality, data centers are changing, and today, Gartner says data centers older than seven years are practically obsolete.
Why do we even need data centers if we have the cloud? First, it’s important to know the difference between the cloud and a data center. A data center is the physical place where data is stored. For many companies or organizations, the data is often stored on the premises of their workplace. Some data centers may be in locations not owned by the organization. In this instance, a data center is collocated, but not in the cloud. The cloud – which is made up of servers in data centers all over the world – is completely off premises, in which case data is accessible from anywhere via the internet.
Moving to the cloud can save companies money and bring much-needed convenience for its users. But the cloud also brings other concerns with it, such as security, reduced latency, and other limitations such as real-time visibility for such applications as graphic rendering or air traffic control. Fortunately, partners like Sungard Availability Services can help companies transform their IT environments to ensure they are resilient and recoverable. Sungard AS leverages 40 years of experience across a broad range of IT landscapes to align the right workloads with the right infrastructures—whether hybrid cloud, legacy or something in-between.
In short, what’s an easy decision for some businesses is a carefully studied and orchestrated dilemma for others. And choosing a data center – whether constructing your own or searching for a partner who matches your needs – can be just as overwhelming as creating a cloud infrastructure. Fortunately, there are expert brokers and consultants who can help you build your IT infrastructure and connect you directly with top data centers, network, peering and cloud providers.
Here are a few things to consider when searching for a cloud partner or data center:
- Compliance checklists – whether you need to comply with HIPAA or HITECH regulations, the right broker can help you find a partner who understands all these requirements and ensures you’re covering all the bases for your own company’s needs, not to mention your own customers’ requirements.
- Cybersecurity controls – your chosen vendor will need to identify and document the existence of a basic set of cyber security controls (such as policies, standards, and procedures) for your organization. Security controls are designed to reduce or eliminate the identified threats and vulnerabilities that place could place your organization at risk.
- Data center selection – selecting the right data center the first time is critical. Once your gear is in a data center, it’s very time consuming, complicated, and expensive to move it to another facility. You need to consider everything from power to network, redundancy, data center facility, location, SLAs, technical support and even their company profile.
- Disaster recovery plans – a solid DR strategy includes plans for the recovery of your people, infrastructure, and internal and external needs not directly relevant to the technical recovery of your business.
- Data center migration – these are the tasks that are critical but easily forgotten and can reduce risk and downtime in a data center migration. Once a new site for your data center has been selected, you’ll need to plan a successful transition—before, during, and after the migration.
- Cybersecurity checklist – this is a system of technologies, processes, and practices designed to protect your computers, networks, applications, and data from an attack, catastrophic damage, or unauthorized access.
Architecting the perfect data center isn’t as easy as designing a flashy Hollywood set or drawing a comic book depiction of futuristic tech toys. It takes deep knowledge of technology, awareness of risks, assessment of physical locations and capabilities, and detailed cost analysis. Not to mention staying on top of new developments, both in terms of technology and compliance. Weighing all the options and having the assurance that your consultants know the landscape can provide peace of mind when considering the perfect data center. After all, when you’re the star of the show, your set could mean the difference between being in a “B” movie or a blockbuster.