Data Centers Explained: What Are They? How Do They Work? Use Cases, and More

Posted by Thane Moore on February 17, 2023

Organizations require a wide range of IT equipment to support applications and ensure the efficient delivery of data to users. Physical and virtual servers, data storage, networking gear, and security tools play a critical role in day-to-day business operations. The data center provides the physical space needed for that equipment.

But what exactly is a data center, and how does it work? Much more than a room, a data center serves as the hub for the activities that keep the IT environment running smoothly.

What Is a Data Center?

As the name implies, a data center is a facility that centralizes data processing, storage, and transmission. It houses the IT equipment that performs those functions and provides the supporting infrastructure, including racks and cabinets, power distribution, cooling, and physical security.

Aggregating this equipment in a central location offers several benefits, including operational efficiency and greater control. As a practical matter, however, most large organizations have a distributed IT environment that incorporates edge data centers, remote locations, cloud-based workloads, and more. As a result, the term “data center” can also refer to all of an organization’s IT resources, regardless of location.

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Data Center vs. Server Room

Many people use the words “data center” and “server room” interchangeably. However, a data center is an entire facility dedicated to IT equipment. It is designed for optimum efficiency, with racks and cabinets aligned in rows for maximum use of floorspace and ready access to the equipment. Data centers typically have intricate power distribution systems, redundant power, cooling, and Internet connectivity to minimize the risk of downtime. 

Learn more about data center design and layout.

Typically, only larger enterprises and government agencies operate data centers today. Most smaller businesses are moving workloads to the cloud, using hosted services and utilizing colocation facilities. 

That’s not to say organizations don’t maintain dedicated space within their offices for onsite servers and other gear. Called a “server room,” this space generally won’t have a data center's redundancy or physical security. And while it gives the organization control over its IT assets, the on-premises server room comes with an IT management burden and lacks the scalability to meet changing business demands.

How Do Data Centers Work?

Data centers help to coordinate the functionality of IT equipment. Network infrastructure connects to servers and storage and provides external connectivity for users and distributed systems. Servers provide the memory, processing power, and local storage for applications and workloads, and storage devices provide the capacity for large data volumes. Security equipment helps prevent network intrusions, malware attacks, and unauthorized access to data.

What Are Data Centers Used For?

Data centers support mission-critical applications and databases that require high uptime and performance. They come in all shapes and sizes and can serve many different use cases.

Data Center Use Cases

  • Data centers commonly serve as a centralization point for backup platforms, data management, and other supporting services.
  • They provide the foundation for artificial intelligence, big data, and other advanced applications that require substantial processing power.
  • They support e-commerce and finance by providing a pool of virtualized resources for high-volume transactions.
  • They enable online gaming communities and productivity applications such as email and instant messengers to run smoothly and scale efficiently.
  • They power the “Cloud.” Without data centers, there would be no cloud computing. Data centers house the servers used to store, protect, and serve cloud data.

Data Center Infrastructure Solutions from Enconnex

Enconnex is a complete data center and IT infrastructure provider. From server racks and cabinets to aisle containment, network cabling, power cords, power distribution, and more, Enconnex can help you implement a data center infrastructure that meets your requirements now and in the future. Browse our IT and data center products and equipment for sale and get in touch to see how we can optimize your environment. 

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Posted by Thane Moore on February 17, 2023

Thane Moore is the Senior Director of Sales Operations & Logistics for Enconnex and has 20 years of experience in the IT infrastructure manufacturing space working for companies such as Emerson and Vertiv.

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