What is a data center?

What is a data center? In this blog post, we will cover all the ins and outs of a data centre.

Updated: 17 Feb, 23 by Susith Nonis 8 Min

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In the technical field, along with the deep concepts, you usually do not ask some basic questions in public as everyone expects you to know them innately! The data center is one of them! In this article, we want to talk about a data center. Keep along with us!

When it comes to describing a data center (DC), you should go through the inside and out of the concept. 

It refers to servers, communication/security infrastructure, and electronic equipment used to provide, maintain and support network services (Internet/Intranet/Extranet). 

It is a building, campus, or a special section containing a computer, telecommunication systems, and their crucial components.  

Organizations, companies, and individuals can launch their network-based information and services on the Internet (intranet/extranet) using DCs.

Depending on the type of application it is defined for, it can act as a processing center, data storage center, data collection center, or all of them.

Large and diverse data centers are being served throughout the global Internet network. At the same time, some have limited commercial use within the organization, and others can be used commercially or publicly on the Internet.

According to their size and functionality, DCs are ranked into the following categories:

  • Organizational, commercial, or academic networks (Campus)
  • Private WAN networks
  • Service Providers (SP)
  • Internet Data Centers (IDC)
  • extra-organizational data centers (Extranet)
  • Local data centers (Intranet)

The infrastructure required for the data center is divided into different parts, each of which might have its components. These include:

Network infrastructures

Network infrastructures include:

  • Network equipment such as switches, routers
  • Security equipment includes firewalls, IDSs and IPSs, anti-viruses, and other network security systems.
  • Network management and monitoring system
  • Servers, including all types of servers and their required programs
  • Passive network equipment, such as the cabling system and its management and arrangement of the internal environment of the data center.

Software infrastructures

Software infrastructures include:

  • Information security systems and maintaining software security
  • Management systems for databases and applications
  • Information integration systems

Power distribution infrastructure

Power distribution infrastructure includes:

  • Cabling system and cable management
  • Power control systems
  • Power backup systems
  • Power monitoring systems

Data storage infrastructure

Data storage infrastructure includes:

  • Backup system and reliable maintenance 
  • Information retrieval system

Facility infrastructures

Facility infrastructures include:

  • HVAC
  • Plumbing system

Physical control and monitoring infrastructures

Physical control and monitoring infrastructures include:

  • Physical access control systems
  • Physical and environmental monitoring systems
  • Solutions to deal with physical and environmental threats


Routers, switches, firewalls, storage systems, servers, and application-delivery controllers are the key components of a DC design.

There are three basic categories of data centers:

Centralized Cloud

Data centers are all about getting the information you need and computing your storage. 

If you think about how you perform a search on a search engine, you get those results from a centralized cloud data center. These are typically very large DCs. We are talking about tens or even hundreds of megawatts. 

Those centralized cloud DCs, sometimes called Hyper-Scale data centers are responsible for serving up search results, online storage, and different types of services that you would get, such as email and so on.

For example, the data centers of huge companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon are large sprawling hyper-scale facilities, which could be a million square feet or more!

Regional Edge

These are some data centers certainly smaller than the hyper-scale DCs and are specific to regions. They are anywhere in the range of a couple of hundred kilowatts to maybe one or two megawatts but nothing much larger than that in general. 

So, they are relatively smaller than a centralized cloud and tend to be used by enterprises and companies that are sometimes called on-premise data centers. This means they provide regional support to reduce latency and improve user connections.

They serve up some specific applications that the company depends on. These are known as regional edge because they are not exactly on the edge of every single employee in office spaces, but it is on the edge of their company. 

Large companies might have several of these regional edge data centers throughout the major hubs to bypass lag time issues for the users. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and DISH Network are well-known companies that use regional DCs.

Local Edge

Anyone who has streamed videos is likely using a local edge data center. These DCs live close to the point of use because when you are streaming a video, the last thing you want is buffering. 

You want to see a seamless movie and have a pleasant experience watching that. So, the local edge is one of the solutions to bringing you that positive experience when you stream a video. 

That is just one application where you use a local edge. These data centers may not be just one rack but several. 

However, the point is that they are situated much closer to the point of use than you would have a regional edge and certainly much closer than you would have a centralized cloud.

The other reason you would want to put applications like this close to the point of use is to reduce the cost of bandwidth and its latency.

Some of these edge data centers sometimes called micro data centers consist of one rack of IT equipment with a power and cooling system all compassed in one solution and placed perhaps at a retail location. On the other hand, it might be at a remote office with maybe 10 or 20 people. 

DCs are designed to support business applications and activities such as:

  • Web hosting services include web servers, databases, FTP, DNS, etc.
  • E-mail and sharing services
  • Application services (ERP, CRM, and so on)
  • Virtual desktops, communications, and collaboration services
  • Big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning

Unlike enterprise data centers, independent companies are setting up and monitoring managed DCs. These companies provide services, including processing, storage, and web server for organizations and individuals who do not have access to private or dedicated data centers.

This kind of rental service with a specific payment plan is much more affordable than setting up an exclusive enterprise data center. 

Using this solution, organizations do not have to have any physical connection with servers and network equipment. 

Therefore, they can solely focus on deploying software systems or storing sensitive data; this will save those costs and reduce service disruptions. LeaseWeb, OVH, and Hetzner data centers are among the most reliable managed service DCs.

A colocation service provider is a combination of an enterprise data center and a managed data center, which provide a proper place for each organization to use its server and equipment and benefit from the provider’s facilities, including storage, cooling systems, bandwidth, and physical security.

In other words, the organization that owns the server leaves the maintenance and provision of the required bandwidth to a third party. This allows companies to use their dedicated hardware without spending much on server maintenance infrastructure.

Here, we talked about the concept of data centers, their importance for today’s businesses, and many more. Please leave us your comments, feedback, and especially any questions you want to be answered. 

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Susith Nonis

Susith Nonis

I'm fascinated by the IT world and how the 1's and 0's work. While I venture into the world of Technology, I try to share what I know in the simplest way with you. Not a fan of coffee, a travel addict, and a self-accredited 'master chef'.