Hardened Data Center Facilities in Hard Times

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DC BLOX data center exterior with fence for security

If there is anything that 2020 has reminded us, it’s to expect the unexpected. Many companies thought they had a business continuity plan in place that had them covered. A major storm? No problem. Power outage? No worries.  Fires, system outages, hackers? We’ve got a plan. But how about a global pandemic? Civil unrest in cities across the country? A suicide bomber in downtown Nashville taking down communications infrastructure? Nobody saw them coming.

If 2020 was a gut check for your business’s disaster plans, the start of 2021 is a good time to reassess your readiness. There is no question that companies are relying on their information technology now more than ever. Digital transformation is being driven by the need to improve customer experiences and to operate more efficiently. However, that means that businesses are more dependent upon technology and the data it produces than ever before. So, what should you look for as you develop your 2021 plans?

Data Center Security Requirements

First, make sure that your IT infrastructure is housed in a secure, reliable facility in the right location. DC BLOX constructs hardened data centers that are purpose-built to meet the most rigorous standards. We build our data centers in areas that are outside of 500-year flood plains and are substantially below the region’s earthquake index. We also ensure access to reliable power (“Smart Grid” or multiple grids) and proximity to intercity fiber optic carrier routes, while staying clear of airports and other potential sources of major accidents.

To minimize your worry about the weather, a hardened data center should be built in areas that are outside of common severe weather paths. However, just in case, make sure the walls and roof of your facility can handle winds of up to 150 MPH or higher. DC BLOX meets that standard, using 10 inch insulated pre-cast concrete and strengthened double-T roof structures. But it is not only man-made and natural disasters you have to protect your business against.

The physical security of your data center needs to be robust enough to keep the bad actors out. DC BLOX utilizes fencing and berms to define and secure the perimeter, along with the buildings being set back at least 100 feet from nearby roadways (wherever possible). Our CCTV system with overlapping cameras monitors the entire campus. The surveillance infrastructure includes motion sensors and outdoor RADAR imaging systems that can detect and enhance monitoring of certain objects. The CCTV systems are monitored 24x7x365 by on-site security staff as well as by remote employees. Bollards protect the entrance from vehicular entry and visitors access the site using card key or from a call box located outside.

Exterior security is the first layer of protection in a hardened data center, but interior security measures are equally important. Once inside a DC BLOX data center, guard stations are equipped with ballistic-resistant walls, glass and other intrusion countermeasures. Visitors and customers must be pre-approved for access and security card key access is needed to enter customer common areas (kitchen, convenience offices, rest rooms, loading dock, etc.). Multi-factor authentication is required for access to the mantrap, which provides a secure pathway to the data hall(s). The CCTV system monitors all internal areas of the data center right down to customer cabinets. Positive contact ingress/egress monitoring occurs for all doors, gates and access paths, including force and hold. Starting from the secure entry gates at the DC BLOX main entrance, our customers pass through nine points of security with access control cards, pins and combination locks to reach their infrastructure housed in our cabinets.

To meet the requirements of government agencies, data centers must adhere to enhanced security specifications. DC BLOX data centers are designed to Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) government standards which translates into the physical security necessary to protect information as required by law, regulations, or government policies.

Data Center Redundancy and Resiliency

Of course, all the physical security in the world in a hardened data center won’t matter if your IT systems lose power. DC BLOX deploys Tier III-designed facilities that ensure “concurrent maintainability.” According to Uptime Institute, this means that any planned maintenance activity of power (excluding external power from the utility) and cooling systems can take place without disrupting the operation of computer hardware located in the data center. In terms of redundancy, Tier III offers at least N+1 availability. Key features of DC BLOX’s fully redundant power system includes:

  • Redundant transformers at the handoff from the Utility provider
  • Redundant power transfer switch infrastructure
  • Redundant UPS Systems
  • Redundant diesel generators
  • Redundant power busway/raceway systems to each customer demarcated space
  • Redundant power handoff to each Customer cabinet
  • Redundant Power Distribution Unit (PDU) in each cabinet
  • Fuel storage per generator is minimum of 1400 gallons, sufficient for at least 24 hours of full load operation
  • Contracts with in- and out-of-state fuel providers

DC BLOX also applies its N+1 strategy to its cooling systems, ensuring redundancy of our CRAC (Computer Room Air Conditioner) units and condensers should an unforeseen failure or maintenance be required.

Data center security and reliability is critical to protect your infrastructure but it’s just as important to be able to transport your data securely and reliably. DC BLOX offers connectivity services via its private, secure network that interconnects all DC BLOX data centers, and facilitates access to built-in carriers, Internet exchanges, and public cloud providers. This connectivity ecosystem is deployed with geographically diverse routes on every span, and redundant network elements throughout.  The result is full resilience and redundancy, offering a 99.999% availability SLA, and speed-of-light latency metrics. As a carrier-neutral data center provider, DC BLOX provides access from its data centers to dozens of carriers across its footprint, including AT&T, CenturyLink, Cogent, Comcast, Crown Castle, Spectrum, Windstream, WoW, and Zayo.

Data Center Changes in Response to the Pandemic

The Pandemic has certainly introduced new challenges to running a mission critical, hardened data center facility. DC BLOX has responded by implementing many new procedures and protocols to keep our security team, our data center operations (DCOPs) team, our vendors, and our customers safe and productive. For example, we have implemented a no-charge remote hands service policy to minimize needed customer visits to our data centers.

To ensure our own staff is protected and remains on-the-job, DC BLOX has updated our schedules so our DCOPs team members alternate on-site shifts to minimize simultaneous contamination. We have also cross-trained our DCOPs staff to operate any of our data centers, minimizing the chance of impact due to COVID cases that may occur across our sites. We follow the CDC pandemic guidelines and maintain regular communication with our customers to keep them abreast of any changes to our protocols. We provide PPE items such as masks and hand sanitizers to all visitors who need them and use wall mounted no-touch thermometers and questionnaires to ensure safe entry into our data centers. Other aspects of our safety protocols include a regular sanitizing schedule of our facilities, maximum capacity limits for conference rooms and various signage around the building to enforce COVID restrictions. 

Though we may not remember 2020 with much affection, we can certainly learn from our experiences. Consider a partner like DC BLOX that can provide your business the flexibility, agility and peace-of-mind to keep your mission critical infrastructure running, no matter what.


About DC BLOX
DC BLOX owns and operates interconnected multi-tenant data centers that deliver the infrastructure and connectivity essential to power today’s digital business. DC BLOX’s private network fabric and robust connectivity ecosystem enable access to built-in carriers, Internet exchanges, public cloud providers, and DC BLOX data centers to businesses across the Southeast. DC BLOX’s data centers are located in Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, AL; Huntsville, AL; and Chattanooga, TN. For more information, please visit www.dcblox.com, call +1. 877.590.1684, and connect with DC BLOX on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook.


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