What is a data center?

A data center houses physical hardware and computer systems. Large cloud hosting providers often house their network infrastructure, such as servers and storage devices in widely distributed geographical locations to create powerful cloud networks. Large-scale data centers often have extensive support infrastructure, with physical and virtual security measures, cooling systems, backup power supplies, and disaster risk-mitigation strategies against fire and water damage.

What is a data center?

In the web hosting industry, a data center stores all the files and assets that websites and web applications need to function properly. Fast website response times start with robust network hardware and powerful servers in data centers across the globe. The most up-to-date data centers utilize cutting-edge hardware and software to build fast, reliable networks.

Even though networks like Google’s Cloud Platform run from globally distributed data centers, their physical locations can affect your website’s performance. For example, if your website’s audience is primarily concentrated in one geographic region, it’s best to choose a web hosting provider that uses a nearby data center. The shorter physical distance between the web server and website visitor results in faster website speed.

While data centers generally have a significant pool of resources to pull from, their scalability may have limits depending on usage. Resource-heavy websites and web applications may be primarily affected by this, as data centers under heavy loads may not be able to scale the necessary resources to keep up with demand. 

Well-managed data centers optimize resource usage to improve workload portability and maximize availability. Servers run multiple Virtual Machines (VM) which each require their own virtual hardware resources. For example, a VM on Google Cloud Platform can pull from a maximum of up to 224 CPUs and a whopping 864 GB of RAM. With many potentially resource-hungry VMs running simultaneously, it’s important for data centers to carefully manage resources to ensure fast response times and uptime. The ability to vertically scale and add new resources is one method data centers use to address this problem. With more hardware resources, additional VMs can share the new resources and optimize workloads. 


Security and privacy

Data centers use a variety of technologies and strategies to keep both the physical location and user data safe from intrusions. Hardware firewalls and software solutions like packet filtering, proxy, hybrid, and stateful firewalls monitor and control traffic between secure areas and non-secure areas of the network, and protect specific protocols like HTTP and FTP.

In addition to other virtual security measures like encryption and two-factor authentication, Intrusion Detection Sensors (IDS) collect and analyze traffic and usage information to detect malicious attempts. Cisco Layer 2 switches protect against the most common attacks like DoS and DDoS attempts.

The data center’s physical security relies on a multitude of access control systems and authentication measures, as well as monitoring of certain attributes like temperature and humidity. Typically, data centers are located in areas considered to be low-risk for natural disasters like fires, flooding, or severe weather that might impact its ability to function.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) passed by the EU in 2018 protects the data of EU citizens by regulating how it is processed, stored, and shared. Similar privacy laws were passed in other countries as well. As a result, many companies must only store their user data in data centers located in specific jurisdictions which meet the law’s requirements. Data centers have adapted to the law, and work with their customers to maintain transparency in the responsible handling of user data. A data center must also adhere to the local laws in the country where it operates. With the advent of data security, the laws surrounding user data protection are growing in complexity. Data center operators and their customers must carefully consider their data practices to prevent hefty penalties. Violating the GDPR can result in substantial fines of up to €20 million or even 4% of a company’s global turnover.