A data center can be a centralized, stand-alone entity that rents or leases computing space to individuals and businesses. However, the central “brain,” or group of networked servers, of an enterprise may also be considered a data center. For our purposes, we discuss the data center as large secure building that houses networked computers for various businesses and individuals. Data centers are also known as NOCs, or network operations centers, according to SAP Data Center.
Each data center is unique, but most can be classified in one of two categories: Internet and Enterprise. The Enterprise data center is internal to a company. The Internet data center provides cloud storage space, database servers and other Internet-facing networked computers. Small and mid-size companies that do not maintain a full-time IT staff can pay to have their data properties and back-end applications stored and managed in a data center.
When you use a cloud-based application like Gmail or Salesforce.com, you are interacting with a large data center. These applications and many others are stored, maintained and managed in large data centers that house thousands of servers. Some popular data centers that rent space to other businesses include Rackspace, ViaWest and Oracle.
Advantages of Data Centers
Using a data center that is external to the business has a few advantages over managing a network on-site. Data centers perform regular maintenance on the computers, which reduces the chance that the machine will experience an unexpected meltdown at an inopportune moment. Data center staff take great care in applying all pertinent service packs and security patches to servers. Anti-virus software is maintained and updated on a regular basis and software upgrades are applied as required.
In the event of a disaster, the data center implements industry-standard disaster recovery efforts to mitigate such issues. Data centers usually have written disaster recovery plans on the books. Additionally, data centers maintain a support staff to help clients with any issue they may have with their hardware and software hosted by the site. Most large data centers maintain an on-call staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Another advantage to using a data center facility if you have a small or mid-size company is that you will have access to large, powerful servers and lightning fast Internet connections that may be out of the company’s budget range. If a smaller business offers their product catalog on an ecommerce site and that site gets heavy traffic at times, a data center can provide the infrastructure and bandwidth to adequately serve all users, even during times of peak use.
Disadvantages of Data Centers
No Physical Access
The main disadvantage to using a data center to house your web applications, databases and other digital properties is that you forfeit direct control over your own servers. There are a few administrative functions that can only be done when the administrator has physical access to the machine. However, in most cases, there are ways to get the job done, even if you have to work with support staff to accomplish the task.
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Digital Properties Out of Direct Control
Another disadvantage for using a data center for business is that the company’s proprietary data is no longer stored internally, but is now hosted off-site at the data center. However, this may actually be an advantage for the business. Data center security is usually military grade. The business likely does not have the resources to secure their own data as well as it would be secured in a data center.