Data centers serve as the brains and backbones of commercial business operations because they house the main networking components and additional information technology (IT) infrastructure elements, such as storage, servers and racks. Data centers can range from stand-alone facilities to computer rooms using modified office areas. Regardless of location, a data center requires safety and security systems so that its sensitive components are protected at all times.

Due to the sensitive nature of data storage and the vast quantity of information housed within, it is imperative that heightened security measures be put in place so that only authorized people have access into and out of the data center. The use of intrusion-detection systems, which are linked and integrated with other security measures, helps ensure the security of the data center.

Peter Sacco, founder and president of PTS Data Center Solutions, explained that, from a cabling standpoint, intrusion-detection systems are about security and operational support.

“An integrated access security solution is used to monitor both ingress and egress, meaning to track both entry and exit. The access control is linked to surveillance coverage where cameras reside both inside and outside of the computer room and the facility,” Sacco said.

The adoption of Internet protocol (IP) cameras and digital image storage continues to evolve. Sacco said that these are the areas where contractors fit into the comprehensive security solutions; these components all use low-voltage cabling.

Dual-access methodology
“If you just use cards for access, they are easy to steal or lose,” he said. “A PIN code, too, can be obtained by watching someone enter it. But if you use both methods, it is more resilient as it would be harder for someone to steal or obtain both methods required for entering the data center.”

So, using a “have-to-have, need-to-know” dual-access methodology is the minimum protection a data center requires. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the data center owner that every access point has at least two methods for entry verification to protect against unwanted intrusions.

One possible addition would be biometrics, which has been used more frequently in data centers. However, Sacco said, there is not one fool-proof biometric access solution available. Even when high-tech options, such as retinal scanners or fingerprint access panels, are used, they also should be integrated with other access solutions to make them most effective. Because of the multiple intrusion-detection devices mandated for proper data center operations, contractors can find various projects for the low-voltage work required to support all of these systems.

Access control arena
Access control in a typical commercial facility is designed to monitor, track and record the comings and goings of all personnel and site visitors. In a data center, where it is crucial to the protection of data and information, access control is implemented on a heightened awareness level. For example, Sacco said, some entries into data centers use mantraps, which are used to further ensure the integrity of the access control system. The traps work by granting access through one door; the person is then kept in an interior area where additional verification is obtained. Once obtained, a second door opens into the sensitive areas of the data center. According to Sacco, these systems and sections require cabling to operate.

Contractors, take note
The sheer amount of intrusion-detection systems needed in data centers means that there is ample opportunity for contractors to find and secure work at such facilities. There is a large amount of data generated and retained by data centers, and they continue to grow in both size and usage. Because of this, targeting data centers for security work is a good option for contractors that have experience in access control, security and integrated systems work.

“Data centers use multiple layers of access control and security,” Sacco said. “Security at a data center is done in concentric layers, and most of those systems require both cabling at the source and back at the rack. There are security systems in place from out in the parking lot all the way into the computer room.”

Electrical and low-voltage contractors should pay attention to all the potential integrated systems work contained within data centers; it far exceeds the installation of rack cabling. This is another avenue contractors can pursue for work.


STONG, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at jennifer.stong@comcast.net.