7 ways data centers are different than other buildings

Data centers are critical pieces of infrastructure and downtime puts services and entire businesses at risk. With such a high premium placed on preventing interruptions, data centers are markedly different from other types of buildings. Here are just seven differences that set them apart.


Design and Operations

Unlike office buildings or warehouses, for instance, data centers demand intensive planning to evade worst case scenarios. To guard against disruptions, data centers are designed to have redundancy in power, network, and sometimes cooling systems. N+1, 2N, and 2N+1 designs indicate how redundancy mechanisms are being put in place.

Data center managers use standardized procedures to ensure uptime, mitigate risk and avoid operational errors. Procedures like Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), Method of Procedures (MOP) and Emergency Operating Procedures (EOP) procedures are critical for the success of a data center.

Monitoring and Control

Data center operators need to be critically aware of how the building is using energy as well as how much. Monitoring systems are placed throughout the location to determine how resources are being spent. Using this information along with control systems, facility managers can learn more about how to efficiently leverage equipment and floor space of their building.

Certifications and Standards

Data centers are graded via a handful of different certifications. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, for example, offers platinum certifications for data centers that have best optimized for energy efficiency. Beyond LEED, standards such as the OSHA, BICSI, ASHRAE, and ISO are just a few other certifications measuring other parameters.

The Uptime Institute provides a broad spectrum of Tier certifications for operational sustainability.

Energy Efficiency

According to a Forbes report from Dec. 2017, data centers are estimated to use approximately three percent of the globe’s total electricity. More to the point, data centers construction is on the rise, anticipated to grow at CAGR of 6% through 2023. The demand for energy is set to rise and and data centers are constantly pressed for higher energy efficiency to reduce environmental impact and OPEX.

Power Usage Efficiency (PUE), the most popular metric for energy efficiency, measures the ratio of energy used by total facility (includes cooling, transmission losses, overhead) vs computing equipment. Data centers require extensive power and energy monitoring to enable PUE and energy efficiency calculations.

Audits and Compliance

To ensure functioning within operating parameters and regulations, data centers undergo periodic audits to follow compliance requirements. Internal audits, ISO, FISMA, and SOC are a few to name. Then there are industry specific audits and compliance, for instance, HIPAA for healthcare, PCI for certification in order to be compliant.

Security, Access Control

The physical security of a data center is also a critical consideration. To mitigate the risk of a breach, security protocols are multi-layered and only accessible to certain personnel on staff. This is controlled via gated access points, man traps, fenced enclosures, surveillance systems and other physical infrastructure needed to prevent unauthorized access and the tampering of business critical information.


Another unique consideration for data centers is their location. Avoiding places that are prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods is the first step when reducing risk as much as possible. Other considerations include demand, real estate prices, cost of power and talent availability.


What other criteria set data center facilities apart? Leave your comments and let us know.

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