How Do Data Centers Work?

Data centers are a critical component to ensure websites are up and running 24/7. Without them, website owners would need to use their own home servers and have them constantly running in order to keep their websites working properly. Clearly this would create obstacles and incur costs that no one would want, and is where domain registrars (such as us!) keep all of our software and processes. Most people don’t really understand how they work though, so here is some explanation of their structure and purpose.

What’s special about them?

Data centers can fulfill a singular purpose of storing data used by businesses and people. They can be thought of as the “brain” of private and business applications. Sometimes dozens upon dozens of servers are run, and which all require constant supervision and resources to maintain. They are separated by four tiers, with the first tier being the lowest protected and cheapest to maintain (99.671% usual uptime per year, mostly used by small businesses and individuals) to tier four which is maximum protection against power outages and highest uptime percentage (99.995% usual uptime per year, high profile entities like the FBI and NSA).

How are they maintained?

When you put many servers in one area, resources are heavily used. Gas and electricity are used to cover extensive air conditioning, temperature sensors, power to the servers themselves, and backup emergency generators. These servers are also usually propped up on raised tiled floors that allow cool air to flow through the servers from the bottom to assist in cooling. This helps in isolating the hot and cold air to their own respective aisles and pushing that hot air directly to a computer room air conditioning (CRAC) unit. These help in monitoring and maintaining the air temperature, distribution, and humidity.

These sound important, are they protected?

Data centers usually vary in security depending on where they are being hosted and what tier they are classified as. Tier one data centers won’t be as secure as tier four data centers simply due to the sensitivity difference of the data being housed. When enforced, security practices can range from basic lock/alarm systems and video cameras to armed guards and biometric sensors. Access to the data center is also extremely limited by safeguards such as mantraps, where verification of the entity entering has to be enforced and boxed off first. Vast amounts of concrete and steel are also used in the construction of these data centers to protect against magnets, fire and even tornadoes/hurricanes in some cases! Constant software scans and backups are also implemented to help protect the data as much as possible, so even if the data itself is compromised, it can be restored.

These sound awesome, how can I check one out? 

Chances are, you’re not going to be allowed direct access to anything above a tier one or two data center, due to the security precautions taken to protect them, with only employees and technicians being allowed in them. We would suggest talking directly with the company housing your server, since some companies do allow this practice under guided supervision.
With data centers increasing in demand, it’s good to know how they are run when your website depends on them. By having 24/7 run time and maintenance, you can sit back and relax, knowing that your domain is up and running, available whenever you want people to access it.