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Constructing Data Centers With Security in Mind

Published On
Oct 12, 2022

Data centers are critical to business and everyday life. More will be built as the world’s digital needs expand, and energy considerations must play a central role in this growth. Construction crews must keep data centers’ power needs in mind for convenience and security.

Delivering enough power and ensuring consistency is more than just keeping data centers available. It’s a security matter, and it must start with construction.

According to a June 2022 report from the Uptime Institute, power failures are the leading cause of data center downtime, accounting for 43% of significant outages in 2021. This downtime can be a substantial security risk, as it means these facilities’ cybersecurity software also goes down. As systems boot up again, it may take a while for their defenses to restart, giving criminals an open window.

Data center security also relies on physical safeguards that require consistent power. Cameras, electric locks, keycard scanners and similar infrastructure may malfunction or shut off in an outage. Without those protections, someone could enter the center and tamper with information or storage systems manually.

These risks highlight how data center security is impossible without reliable power infrastructure. That means teams building these facilities must ensure they construct them with energy reliability in mind to prevent attacks. Here are a few considerations that the process should include.

1. Understand energy needs

Before laying the energy infrastructure for a data center, teams must understand the facility’s power needs. Not letting the system distribute enough energy wherever needed could open the door to catastrophic outages in the future.

Load bank testing can help by revealing energy consumption at peak times, giving electrical workers a baseline. Because data center power consumption can fluctuate, it’s important to use measurements from peaks instead of a general average. Teams should also plan for redundancy, using these readings as a minimum standard rather than the ideal target.

2. Consider all equipment

It’s important to consider all the equipment in a data center when calculating power needs, not just the servers. Servers may be the most critical systems to keep running, but these facilities require far more electronics that may compete for power withdrawals.

Cooling equipment is one of the most important of these other systems to consider. According a March 2020 report from Energy Innovation Policy & Technology LLC, this infrastructure often accounts for 43% of electricity consumption in data centers, just as much as the servers themselves. Teams that don’t think about these energy needs may not give data centers enough power.

3. Design for efficiency

Providing the infrastructure to deliver more power is only half of the solution to managing data center energy. Teams can also build their facilities to be more energy efficient. Less power would make it easier to meet energy needs, avoiding related security issues.

A large part of energy efficiency is choosing low-power equipment, but there are other ways to improve it. Construction teams can design the space to facilitate better airflow, reducing the need for high-power cooling equipment. Similar steps can help make energy withdrawals more manageable and prevent surges and overheating.

4. Provide backup power

Another essential step in ensuring security through energy infrastructure is providing backup power. Even if a data center’s in-house systems are as resilient as possible, accidents can still happen, especially when drawing electricity from the grid. Considering the United States experienced 1.33 billion outage hours in 2020, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence, data centers can’t assume outages will never happen.

Data centers need backup generators that should also undergo regular maintenance to ensure their reliability and be able to switch to these power sources instantly.

5. Enable easier future maintenance

Finally, teams should keep future maintenance in mind. Ensuring continuous power and efficiency requires regular checks and repairs, so the data center’s design should facilitate these inspections.

Rack spacing and generator positions should make accessing service panels and similar equipment easy. The easier it is to maintain these systems, the more likely employees will do it.

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