Published 19 Apr 2020

What is a data centre and how do they work?

By, Pulsant

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The role of the data centre has changed drastically over recent years.

As the rapid rise of AI, the cloud, and virtualisation continue to shift the information technology landscape, data centres have had to adjust to keep up with new processing demands.

In this article, we take a look at what a data centre is, how they work, and why many businesses are making them central to their day-to-day operations.


  • What is a data centre?
  • What does “colocation” mean?
  • How reliable are data centres?
  • How much do colocation data centres cost?
  • Where to find data centres
  • Data centres and compliance
  • Benefits of multi-site backup and disaster recovery
  • Managed cloud and other services

What is a data centre?

The most basic definition of a data centre is simply a facility that a business uses to house its IT equipment.

While you could place your network servers in a corner of your own office, many modern businesses require their mission-critical IT systems to be secure, reliable and easily accessible.

This involves a significant amount of facilities infrastructure, which includes backup generators, cooling systems, power supplies and more. It requires a level of capital investment beyond the reach of most SMEs.

For that reason, many businesses will make use of the colocation services provided by third-party data centres, such as ourselves.

What does “colocation” mean?

Colocation simply means placing your own IT equipment in pre-built racks in a data centre. This isn’t just servers, but associated equipment like storage devices, network switches and firewalls.

In doing so, you can let us take care of running the facility itself, while you concentrate on running your IT systems.

As previously mentioned, the data centre will also provide the infrastructure needed to function, including:

  • Power supply and distribution
  • Uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) for reliability
  • Stand-by generators for use in the case of a mains power failure
  • Ventilation and cooling for the IT equipment
  • Fire detection and suppression systems
  • Physical security and access control
  • Network connectivity to the outside world

At Pulsant, we own and manage all of these elements. We also host multiple businesses within each of our data centre facilities, so we’re able to keep costs at a minimum for you.

How reliable are data centres?

All of our data centre infrastructure has multiple levels of redundancy.

This means mains power is taken from more than one supplier and is backed up by on-site generators. These automatically engage if mains power is lost.

Redundant Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) systems ensure that if one fails (or is taken out of service for routine maintenance) other units will take up the load. For you, this means an uninterrupted service.

Similarly, cooling systems have multiple redundant units, allowing one to fail or taken out of service for routine maintenance without impacting the facility’s cooling ability. All of our data centres have multiple incoming lines from telecommunications carriers, providing reliable connectivity for your hosted systems.

All of these systems are regularly tested. For example, we will simulate a loss of mains power to demonstrate that the generators will adequately take the load in the case of a real emergency, with no loss of service.

Colocation data centre support

The most important part of supporting all this infrastructure is, of course, the people.

Maintaining the building fabric, the power, cooling sub-systems, and the security of the facilities needs knowledgeable staff.

As with the physical elements of the data centre, recruiting and retaining this team of people would be prohibitively costly for many businesses. With your equipment housed in a data centre, however, you have experienced engineers working for you 24/7.

Typically, businesses find that colocation hosting improves business operations, cuts capital costs and increases the reliability and availability of service.

How much do colocation data centres cost?

In our data centres, you can occupy everything from a shared rack up to your own secure cage. You can even have a dedicated private room within the facility, depending on your needs.

Our data centre colocation services are priced according to the physical space that your servers take up in the data centre and the amount of power they draw. Additional charges may be made for networking provision and for any server maintenance tasks you ask our engineers to carry out.

As your IT needs grow, your data centre footprint can scale accordingly, with none of the up-front capital expense you would need to expand your on-premise server room.

Where to find data centres

There are potential downsides to consider when moving your equipment into a third-party data centre. One of the main issues is the distance from your own offices.

If using our on-site staff isn’t suitable and you need to send your engineers to attend to your servers, the distance and associated travel time needs to be considered.

That is why our data centres are scattered across the country and include excellent transport links.

Our colocation data centre estate includes enterprise-class facilities at:

All of our data centres are designed to offer the same high levels of enterprise-class service, allowing you to choose a facility that is geographically convenient for you.

Data centres and compliance

A great data centre should measure itself against global standards.

At Pulsant, we hold independently-verified certifications in multiple standards, including:

  • PCI-DSS SP 2.0 (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)
  • ISO 27001:2013 (Information Security Management)
  • ISO 9001 (Quality Management)
  • ISO 14001 (Environmental Management)
  • SSE Green Certificate (for purchasing 100% renewable energy)

These certifications are only awarded after rigorous independent auditing and show our commitment to the highest levels of service and security.

In a highly-regulated industry, you may need to show compliance with some or all of these standards yourself. Hosting your systems in a certified data centre provides an essential tick in the box.

Benefits of multi-site backup and disaster recovery

Another key benefit of moving your IT into our data centres is geographical resilience.

By mirroring your systems between geographically-separated data centres, you can make sure that your systems continue functioning in the event of a localised disaster. This wouldn’t be the case if your systems were all housed in a room in your own office.

For this reason, even businesses that run their IT from their premises often use a third-party data centre as a backup. The disaster recovery options provided by dispersed data centres should form a key part of the business continuity planning of any organisation that relies on mission-critical IT systems.

All of our data centres are connected by our multi-gigabit core network, allowing the fast and reliable transfer of data between the facilities.

Managed cloud and other services

Colocation is only one way to use a data centre.

Many organisations find it makes commercial sense to outsource IT management entirely to service providers such as ourselves.

In addition to data centre colocation, we provide public and private cloud services and a range of managed server services, all hosted from within our data centres.

Should your server estate become too large or complex for you to continue to manage yourself, you could migrate to one of our managed server solutions. This could be either on dedicated hardware we manage for you or on shared infrastructure in our Enterprise Cloud service.

To find out more about our services, contact our team today and we’ll be happy to find a solution that fits your business.