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A Guide to Datacentres: what you need to know

The most basic definition of a datacentre is simply a facility that an enterprise uses to house its IT equipment. There are a lot of complex elements that are involved in providing an enterprise-class datacentre, however. While you could place your network servers in a corner of your own office if you wished, modern businesses require their mission-critical IT systems to be secure and reliable, as well as easily accessible, and for that they look to house their equipment in dedicated datacentres. And as constructing an enterprise-class datacentre requires a level of capital investment beyond the reach of most SMEs, these businesses will make use of the colocation services of a third-party datacentre provider such as ourselves. “Colocation” simply means placing your own IT equipment (not just servers but associated equipment such as storage devices, network switches and firewalls) in pre-built racks in our datacentre and letting us take care of running the facility itself while you concentrate on running your IT systems.

In addition to the building fabric that houses the IT equipment, the datacentre will also provide the infrastructure which that equipment requires in order to function: 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, and network connectivity to the outside world. We own and manage all of these elements, and as we host multiple businesses within each of our datacentre facilities you directly benefit from the economies of scale we can achieve.

Reliability and redundancy

To maintain a high degree of reliability, all of our datacentre infrastructure has multiple levels of redundancy. Mains power is generally taken from more than one supplier, and is backed up by on-site generators which 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 and provide a true uninterrupted service. Similarly, cooling systems have multiple redundant units, allowing one to fail without impacting the facility’s cooling ability. All of our datacentres have multiple incoming lines from multiple telecommunications carriers, providing highly reliable connectivity for your hosted systems.

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

Expert engineers

The most important part of supporting all this infrastructure is of course people. Maintaining the building fabric, the power and cooling sub-systems, and the security of the facilities takes dedicated and knowledgeable staff on call 24/7. As with the physical elements of the datacentre, recruiting and retaining this team of people would be prohibitively costly for many businesses. With your equipment housed in one of our datacentres, however, you have the benefit of our own teams of trained, experienced datacentre engineers working for you 24/7.

Typically, businesses find that colocation hosting improves business operations, cuts capital costs and increases the quality and reliability of service that their own customers experience.

In one of our datacentres, you can occupy a footprint from as small as part of a shared rack up to multiple racks locked in your own secure cage or even a dedicated private room within the facility, depending on your needs. Whatever space you need, you will benefit from the same level of reliability and security that is built into the fabric of our infrastructure, and as your IT needs grow your datacentre footprint can scale accordingly, with none of the up-front capital expense you would need to expand your own on-premise server room.

Our datacentre colocation services are priced according to the physical space that your servers take up in the datacentre 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 on your behalf.

Regional accessibility

There are potential downsides to consider when moving your equipment into a third-party datacentre, and one of the main ones is distance from your own offices. When you need to send your engineers to attend your servers, distance and associated travel time can be a significant problem. This is why we offer a range of datacentres across the country, from London to Scotland, all with excellent transport links, allowing you to choose a facility that is geographically convenient for you. Our datacentre estate includes enterprise-class facilities at:

  • Edinburgh Medway
  • Edinburgh Newbridge
  • Edinburgh South Gyle
  • Maidenhead
  • Milton Keynes
  • Newcastle Central
  • Newcastle East
  • Reading East
  • Sheffield
  • South London

All of our datacentres are designed and constructed to offer the same high levels of enterprise-class service, allowing you to choose a facility that is geographically convenient for you and know that you will benefit from our guarantees of best–in-class service, security, and availability levels.

Compliance standards

We measure our datacentres against internationally-recognised standards and 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)
  • CSA STAR (Cloud Security Alliance Security, Trust and Assurance Registry)
  • SSE Green Certificate (for purchasing 100% renewable energy)

These certifications, only awarded after rigorous independent audit, 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, and hosting your systems in a certified datacentre provides an essential tick in the box. But even where compliance is not a requirement, you still benefit from the peace of mind of knowing that we consistently give you the level of service and security that those certifications measure.

Multi-site availability for backup and disaster recovery

Another key benefit of moving your IT into our datacentres is geographical resilience. By mirroring your systems between multiple, geographically-separated datacentres, you can ensure that your systems will continue functioning even if a localised disaster strikes one facility—something that would not 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 own premises often use a third-party datacentre as a backup. The disaster recovery options provided by dispersed datacentres should form a key part of the business continuity planning of any organisation that relies on mission-critical IT systems to serve their customers. All of our datacentres are connected by our multi-gigabit core network, allowing fast and reliable transfer of data between the facilities to provide off-site backups or mirrored systems for maximum reliability.

Managed cloud and other complementary services

Colocation is only one way to use a datacentre. Many organisations find it makes commercial sense to outsource IT management entirely to service providers such as ourselves. In addition to datacentre colocation, we provide public and private cloud services and a range of managed server services, all hosted from within our own datacentres. 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, either on dedicated hardware we manage for you or on shared infrastructure in our Enterprise Cloud service. These solutions are all hosted in our datacentres, allowing you to retain the full security, availability, and connectivity that our datacentres provide to your colocated hardware while removing the overheads of managing and maintaining that hardware yourself.

The rise of public cloud services such as Azure and AWS has given businesses a new range of IT hosting options over and above simple datacentre colocation. Many are finding, however, that a purely cloud-based solution does not fully meet their needs, and are turning to hybrid solutions that incorporate both cloud-based workloads and traditional datacentre-based servers. Our excellent datacentre connectivity and cloud-enabled racks, coupled with our wide expertise in deploying and managing public cloud solutions for our customers and our partnerships with the major cloud vendors, means that we are ideally positioned to support your hybrid cloud solutions from our datacentres. We can assist you in your entire journey to the cloud, from simply hosting your physical servers to enabling the migration of your workloads to the cloud, to managing those workloads for you.

Contact us to find out more.

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