Data centers as business support during coronavirus
The COVID-19 outbreak has forced countries around the world to implement lockdowns and quarantines to slow the spread of the disease. The World Economic Forum posits that a viable vaccine for COVID-19 is still one to two years away. For a business to thrive in this crisis, allowing its employees to work from home has become necessary. In order to do that, a data center is vital.
What is a data center
Most businesses, regardless of the industry they are in, generate and/or use data. Employees need access to data to perform their roles. They use email, write documents, program source code, create and edit images and/or video files, etc. The amount of critical data a business requires to operate can be massive. Consequently, a business has at least three requirements when it comes to data:
- the means to store immense amounts of it;
- backup tech as a precaution from data loss;
- and a secure way for the necessary personnel to access the data securely.
These requirements are satisfied by having a data center in place. A data center, simply put, is a central location where computer hardware for data storage and networking is situated. Given that we are living in the digital age, and computing has become integrated into most industries, most businesses already have some form of data center in place. A data center can run the gamut from a small business, that has a dedicated desktop computer and a network switch, to a mega corporation like Google, which has numerous server farms across the globe. There is no hard rule to determine when a hardware setup is categorized as a data center.
Data Center as critical support system
Most businesses already have some form of data center in place. The data center’s networking capabilities should be able to handle the scenario where most employees work from home. At the same time, the business should ensure that the data center is online as much as possible. Any disruption of this fast and consistent access to data by the workforce can lead to business interruption. This in turn, translates to lost revenue, or a decline in customer satisfaction.
A Virtual Private Network service allows an employee to use their home internet connection to connect to the company’s private network. The IT manager must ensure that the VPN service being used can support handling larger volumes of data and higher frequency of use. This can be done by stress testing the VPN service. Large corporations in the US, such as JPMorgan Chase have already begun testing their preparedness for a work from home workforce according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.
Maintenance of the data center during the pandemic
Data centers, like any system composed of machines, require planned and preventative maintenance to decrease the risk of failures which lead to system downtime. Ensuring enough manpower to maintain and support the system during the pandemic will be a challenge, but it will be necessary to provide uninterrupted business operations. Uptime Institute, a data center advisory organization, gave recommendations on how data center facilities can deal with the impact of the coronavirus. They include the following:
- Cleaning data centers more often and more rigorously
- Establishing workplace COVID-19 response procedures to prevent the spread of the virus
- Making the case that the business’ data center is critical infrastructure
There are several options available to businesses for investing in a data center that consider the cost and scale of the necessary data center that a business requires.
- A business can have its own in-house data center solution. In this case, a business will have full control of the design and implementation of the data center. It will also have to oversee maintenance and upkeep.
- A business can use data center colocation, where one essentially rents a data center from a data center colocation company. In this case, maintenance and upkeep are passed to the outsourced company but total control of the data center is sacrificed.
- For small businesses that cannot afford their own data center or avail of colocation, they can use cloud computing and cloud storage services like Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google’s G-Suite as substitutes to an actual data center.
The state of California has released a document that designates data center employees of the electric, telecommunications, and information technology industries as “critical infrastructure workers”. These employees are not subject to forced shutdowns mandated by the state government to deal with the spread of COVID-19. Having a clean work environment and COVID-19 response procedures in place may help a business convince government and health authorities that its data center is critical.