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The Data Center Defense Dossier

In a world where every IT director and security expert gets his wish, data centers would be constructed with dual electric power feeds, multiple generators, redundant heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), dual-interlock dry-pipe fire suppression systems, iris scans, laser grids, man traps, face-recognition devices, and a surfeit of other technologically advanced systems and procedures. In the real world, operating costs and business strategy intercede, and companies must develop the most practical and effective methods for building and securing their organizations' mission-critical data centers.

Rather than one universal set of best practices, there are good and better practices that best fit the needs of an individual organization, including the organization's size, mission, budget, client base, and strategic business objectives. When determining what data center practices best fit each organization's current and future needs, location and physical security are two critical areas that must be considered in light of, and sometimes weighed against, overall business requirements.

Location, location, location

In determining the location of the data center, the first step is choosing a site within a localized geography that meets the overall business objectives as well as conforming to a good or better practice. From a risk standpoint, an urban downtown area, replete with high rises, heavy vehicular and foot traffic, government agencies, and corporate flagship buildings, may not be the best location. Putting a data center in a downtown high-rise building represents a significant risk in terms of both safety and cost. It is less expensive and, in general, more secure to develop data centers in low-rise suburban buildings or business parks within an hour's drive from the city center. However, the availability of telecommunications and power is typically greater within major city centers.

Accessibility is also an important business consideration. The cachet of having a certain address is another business driver that sometimes influences a data center's location. When choosing a location it becomes important to strike a balance between distance from an urban center (to reduce exposure) and proximity (to maintain infrastructure efficacy and ease of doing business).

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