A data center is a facility that uses complex network, compute and storage infrastructure to provide shared access to applications and data. Organisations use this physical facility to store their critical applications and data. Various industry standards are present to maintain data center facilities to ensure that the data is secure and readily available. 

A data center is designed based on a network of computing and storage resources that enable the delivery of shared applications and data. The key elements of a data center design include routers, switches, firewalls, storage systems, servers, and application-delivery controllers.

Modern data centers are very different from the previous ones as they have evolved from a facility containing a traditional on-premises infrastructure to one that connects on-premises systems with cloud infrastructures that support applications and workloads across pools of physical infrastructure and into a multi-cloud environment.

In this era, data exists and is connected across multiple data centers, as well as the public and private clouds. The data center must be equipped to communicate across these multiple sites, both on-premises and in the cloud. The public cloud is a collection of data centers and when they host applications, the cloud uses data center resources from the cloud provider. 

What are the Core Components of a Data Center?

Data center design includes components including routers, switches, firewalls, storage systems, servers, and application delivery controllers which store and manage critical business data and applications. Hence data center security is critical in data center design. Together, they provide:

  1. Network Infrastructure: It connects physical as well as virtualized servers, data center services, storage, and external connectivity to end-user locations.
  2. Storage Infrastructure: Storage systems used to hold data that is considered the fuel of the modern data center. 
  3. Computing Resources: Computer servers provide the processing, memory, local storage, and network connectivity that drive applications which are considered the engines of a data center. 

How do Data Centers Operate?

In order to protect the performance and integrity of the core data center components data center services are deployed. 

The operation of data centers are based on:  

  • Network Security Appliances: They safeguard the data center by including firewall and intrusion protection. 
  • Application Delivery Assurance: These mechanisms provide application resiliency and availability through automatic failover and load balancing to maintain application performance.

The Role of a Data Center

A data center is designed to handle high volumes of data and traffic with minimum lag, which makes it useful for the following cases:

  • Private cloud: hosting in-house business productivity applications such as CRM, ERP, etc.
  • Processing big data, powering machine learning and artificial intelligence.
  • High-volume eCommerce transactions.
  • Powering online gaming platforms and communities.
  • Data storage, backup, recovery, and management.

In 2021, one could simply outsource all of the data processing to a third party, like AWS or Google Cloud. But it’s not always easy and often expensive for an enterprise to give another party access to the data.

According to a 2020 study, companies prefer to use a data center over public environments in order to reduce costs, solve performance issues, or meet uphold regulatory requirements.

Types of Data Centers

There are many types of data centers. Let’s take a closer look at them to find one that best suits your company’s needs.

1. Colocation Data Centers

A colocation center — also known as a “carrier hotel” —  is a type of data center where equipment, space, and bandwidth are made available by the data center’s owner to the people willing to rent. 

For example, instead of renting a virtual machine from a public cloud provider, one can just straight-up rent a certain amount of their hardware from specified data centers.

2. Enterprise Data Centers

An enterprise data center is typically constructed and used by a fully company-owned data center to process internal data and host mission-critical applications.

3. Cloud Data Centers

One can set up a virtual data center in the cloud by using third-party cloud services. This is similar to colocation, but people may take advantage of specific services rather than just renting the hardware and configuring it themselves.

4. Edge Data Centers

An edge data center is a smaller data center that is very close to the end user. Instead of having one massive data center, one instead has multiple smaller ones to minimize latency and lag.

Organisations deploy Edge computing facilities when IoT devices and low-latency data demands are high. 

5. Micro Data Centers

A micro data center is similar to an edge data center if the latter is pushed to the extreme. It might be as small as a small office room, handling the data processed in a specific region.

According to experts, although large enterprise data centers are still the most popular, there will be continued growth in colocation and micro data centers.

6. Managed Data Centers

This data center can be managed both entirely or partially by a third party service provider which looks upon the data’s deployment, management and monitoring. If it is wholly managed it manages all the technical details, including the back end data. On the other hand if it is partially managed, the business has a certain level of administrative control over data center implementation and service. 

Data Center Tiers 

Companies rate data centers by tier to highlight their expected uptime and reliability.

Tier 1 Data Centers (Basic Site Infrastructure) 

A Tier 1 data center offers limited protection against physical events. It has single-capacity components, a single path for power and cooling and few, if any, redundant and backup components. It has an expected uptime of 99.671% (28.8 hours of downtime annually).

Tier 2 Data Centers (Redundant-capacity Component Site Infrastructure)

This data center offers improved protection against physical events. A Tier 2 data center has a single path for power and cooling and some redundant and backup components. It has an expected uptime of 99.741% (22 hours of downtime annually).

Tier 3 Data Centers (Concurrently Maintainable Site Infrastructure)

This data center protects against virtually all physical events. A Tier 3 data center has multiple paths for power and cooling and systems in place to update and maintain it without taking it offline. Each component can be removed or replaced without disrupting services to end users. It has an expected uptime of 99.982% (1.6 hours of downtime annually).

Tier 4 Data Centers (Fault-Tolerant Site Infrastructure)

This data center provides the highest levels of fault tolerance and redundancy. A Tier 4 data center is built to be completely fault-tolerant and has redundancy for every component. It has an expected uptime of 99.995% (26.3 minutes of downtime annually).


We hope this article has helped demystify the world of Data Centers, and helped you find a type and tier most useful to your company’s needs.