A data center (aka server farm) is like a huge warehouse for hundreds or even thousands of servers. As you might imagine, that much hardware working all the time generates epic amounts of heat, so it features a carefully maintained environment that’s designed to keep the servers cool, as well as secure.
What does it do?
Everything on the web needs a home, a physical location that anyone, anywhere can access at any time. Millions of people and businesses now routinely backup documents, photos, financial records and more besides to the web. And not only that, but many modern services rely on easy access to masses of constantly changing data just to function properly.
Meeting all of these requirements places a huge responsibility on whoever has to look after all that digital ‘stuff’, and that’s exactly what data centers are there to do.
Data Center Equipment
Data centers are stocked with powerful computers called servers, as we have said, and these machines sit in units that almost look like drawers in cabinets. Because there are so many of them packed so tightly together it is critical to remove heat as quickly as it’s produced. The environment is tightly controlled, with temperature and humidity kept within specific parameters.
A data center also has fire systems and earthquake protection systems, which are there to mitigate any potentially catastrophic occurrences that nature may decide to throw at it.
Auxiliary power systems are ready to kick in at a moment’s notice, and redundant data communication connections (fiber optic cables) keep any data stored on the server boxes safe.
Dedicated security systems are there to repel any unwanted intruders like hackers, and the usual array of cameras and burly guards are present on site to discourage unwelcome human visitors.
Data Center Setups
Data centers can be configured to meet any number of different requirements, so resources can be organized according to meet specific needs. These different setups have different classifications, and these are referred to as Tiers.
A Tier 1 is the simplest kind of facility, taking up just a room, and as the numbers rise so does the complexity. Tier 4 is the most complex, containing mission-critical servers in one large and very tightly controlled space.
Servers themselves vary in size, from 1U boxes to big storage silos. The machines sit inside 19-inch rack cabinets, arranged in rows to permit easy access.