Archive for the ‘Data Center’ Category

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Compliance can be a pain to keep up with and can have serious consequences if you do not keep up with it. The recent headlines where Windows discontinues support to its most popular Windows XP operating system may, at first glance, seem not at all related to compliance. However, the fact is that systems that continue to run Windows XP operation system would be without support and therefore more likely to develop vulnerabilities. Storing health records in systems still operating on Windows XP run the risk of non-compliance with the HIPAA Act.

ONC Revises EHR Certification StandardsIt is not enough for you to simply upgrade all your systems. When you outsource to a data center, if the data center runs systems on Windows XP and your records are compromised as a result, it is you, and not the data center, who will be liable in the eyes of the law.

So how do you protect yourself against these kinds of hidden dangers? It is not possible to be knowledgable of every single development in technology, relate it to compliance, and check whether the data center is protected on that front. The solution lies in taking a close look at what the data center is doing.

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, lays down standards for protecting sensitive patient data. Any entity that handles protected health information needs to ensure physical, network, and process security for the data. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to ensuring HIPAA compliance. HIPAA Security standards are flexible and scalable, and each entity may take any reasonable security measures to meet the laid down objectives of the act. Therefore, if the data center has robust security systems in place that would compensate even if HIPAA covered data passes through a compromised XP system, there is nothing to worry about.

The underlying point to note is whether the data center has accreditation for being HIPPA compliant. Related compliance certifications such as SSAE Type II, PCI DSS, HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act), and others would also indicate the robustness of the data center security and the seriousness with which it views compliance and security. You also need to know the extent to which the data center updates and reviews its compliance and security set-up in order to be aware of emerging threats.

In today’s security threat landscape, the ability of the service provider to secure customers data is of prime importance. Lifeline Data Centers hold compliance as one of the important aspects of our data center. Learn more today.

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The data center industry keeps expanding and growing and a big reason is the increasing shift towards cloud computing. More and more Internet users now prefer data stored in the cloud rather than on hard drives. Businesses have now realized that a properly implemented cloud infrastructure would improve their agility and productivity, while also cutting infrastructure costs at the same time.

How to Identify a Secure and Compliant Data CenterHowever, businesses that entrust their data to a cloud provider assume that their data is safe just because they have passed the burden to someone else. However, they need to undertake a comprehensive review of the data center that would hold their data to make sure they are housing it in a safe place. This review should cover the following broad areas:

Robust Security
There are a variety of factors to consider when it comes to security in the data center.

The physical security of the data center is of critical importance and you need to know what safeguards are in place against floods, fire and other threats, as well as access controls for physical machines.

Another important yet often overlooked consideration is virtual data center security, which depends on the cloud architecture. Check into how individual compute nodes, network nodes, and storage nodes are architected, integrated, and secured since they have a great bearing on the robustness and security of the data center.

The physical and virtual security deployments of the data center depend on the extent of controls available. One important consideration is whether the data centers are SAS 70 Type II data centers. SAS 70 Type II reports specify the internal controls in place at the data centers and are applicable for service organizations.

The physical security infrastructure and controls in place notwithstanding, truly secure data centers have well-trained and skilled operators, adept in dealing with the different situations and scenarios that may emerge in an emergency.

Even when data is stored in a third-party data center, the business is still liable for data breaches. It is the business that is responsible for a data breach, even if the data center is responsible.

Compliance
Different companies have different compliance needs, depending on the nature of their business and the clients they serve.  Data centers need to not just deal with multiple compliance standards, but they also need to be adept in resolving and reconciling incompatible standards set by different countries or agencies.

Offshore data centers would have to comply with set of rules and regulations different from the rules and regulations in the US or the base country of the client. For instance, the European Union has laws that protect privacy, whereas the US Patriot Act allows virtually unlimited powers to federal agencies to access information belonging to companies. The client needs to ensure that the data center complies with the minimum mandatory requirements of the client’s host country, if nothing else. However, compliance goes beyond satisfying the minimum mandatory requirements, and, in most cases, requires compliance with other standards widely accepted by the industry.

The world of compliance is highly fluid and another important yardstick to gauge data centers is the extent to which they remain updated on the changing compliance requirements .

Integrated Security
Good data centers have state of the art security measures in place, including physical access controls, firewalls, and military grade encryption. However, no matter how robust the security, a company would ideally want to integrate the data center security with their own corporate security policy. This means that instead of being forced to accept whatever security and compliance that the data center offers, the client should be in a position to extend their existing policies to the additional platform, albeit an external one. Whatever extra security features that the data center provides would be a bonus.

Data centers that remain flexible on the policies and offer a comprehensive range of security features should easily be able to accommodate the client’s security policies, without it clashing with or overlapping their own security policies. Lifeline Data center offers flexible data center solutions to accommodate all your customized needs. Contact us today.

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When it comes to addressing physical security needs for a data center, protection against fire is one of the major aspects that needs to be covered. Today, data centers in the US need to comply to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 75 and 76 revised standards to ensure that fire suppression mechanisms are in place. What is also interesting is that standard compliance is covered under jurisdiction, so avoidance or lack of adherence to these can result in severe consequences.

NFPA 75 and 76: Data Center Fire Suppression StandardsThe NFPA 75 is the Standard for the Fire Protection of Information Technology Equipment — 2013 Edition – and focuses on data centers. The NFPA 76 is the Standard for the Fire Protection of Telecommunications Facilities — 2012 Edition – with a focus on all aspects that are impacted by public telecommunication.

The revised standards have a considerable impact on data centers that use containment cooling. Containment offers great benefits to data center efficiencies by separating the hot and cold aisles. This, however, can prove to be extremely dangerous in case of fires, since fire detection becomes more difficult. Therefore, new revisions to the standards had to be introduced to address these aspects.

According to the new revisions, fire protection sprinklers need to be redesigned so that they cover all areas of contained aisles. The other option suggested is to have auto containment panels in such a way that the enclosures are integrated with the fire detection system. In this solution, the barriers to the containment aisles open up automatically in the event of a fire. Electrical containment is the more expensive option of the two and hence not as widely adopted currently.

The NFPA 75 requires that data centers install smoke detection systems that are in compliance with the NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code so as to give the earliest warning of a fire. The NFPA 76 has slightly different requirements with regards to the smoke detection systems that need to be installed. For facilities with telecommunication equipment in an area above 2,500 square feet, the standard requires Very Early Warning Fire Detection (VEWFD) detection systems to be used. For rooms below 2,500 square feet, the Early Warning Fire Detection (EWFD) system is required.

When it comes to prevention against natural disaster such as fires, any costs related to risk mitigation will be justified when compared to the cost of damage that will be incurred in case of an actual fire. It is always better to be safe than sorry and following standards such as the NFPA is surely a step forward in the right direction. For more NFPA compliance information for data centers, do get in touch with the data center experts at Lifeline Data Centers.

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Cloud computing is gaining momentum by the minute. Whilst many enterprises have already taken the plunge and moved to the cloud, there are many others still on the edge, waiting to make the right decision. Yes, the cloud does have many benefits, but do you really need to go that way, or will a colocated data center serve you better? These are some of the many questions that CIO’s and CTO’s are facing in the modern technology world.

Data Center or Cloud Provider: Which Way to Go?Recent research revealed that as many as 40% of all businesses were using the cloud in 2012. Mail services were the most popular with 27% of the world’s mailboxes being hosted on a cloud. There is also an interesting forecast that more than 30% of the world’s computing will be done on the cloud by the year 2018.

How does this impact traditional data centers? Cloud service providers typically use data centers as their back office mechanism, so while you may be using a cloud-based service, chances are that you are still being served by a data center. Following are some of the significant aspects to consider when choosing one over the other.

  • Scalability: A data center does have some limitations over scale. Contracts have to be worded carefully if scalability is a key requirement since one typically pays for power consumption. Hence, if there is not an immediate or big need for sudden scalability then a data center is a better option. Cloud services can cater to scalability in a more efficient way and should be the natural choice when the need to scale is an integral part of the business.
  • Security: Security can be more tightly managed in a data center. Data centers also take great care of physical security, plan for disaster recovery, and also go through rigorous security compliance audits. With the cloud, the access points are more open which makes it more vulnerable to security breaches.
  • Time and Cost Factor: For Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s), Cloud services can prove to be more cost and time effective, especially since they are subscription-based and can start service almost immediately. Data centers can be comparatively higher on the cost and start-up time.

Most business owners will agree that making a timely decision is as important as taking the right decision. If you are at the critical deciding point, do get in touch with Lifeline Data Centers before taking the plunge.

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In today’s age of heightened security concerns, one would assume that businesses safeguard their networks. However, the reality is that about one out of every four businesses fail to carry out even the most basic security reviews of their operations.

The Basic Paradigms of Data Center SecurityA business that has an online presence, especially an ecommerce website that processes and stores their customers personal and credit card information, needs to comply with PCI-DSS regulations and a host of other compliance regulations, aimed at ensuring that the network remains equipped to ward off threats. However, these compliance regulations are the basic minimum required by law or industry convention. It takes much more to actually deliver a strong and robust network that would keep cyber criminals at bay.

Apart from undertaking routine compliance audits to determine whether all the required compliance standards are fulfilled and filling the gaps, network administrators need to deploy additional security measures to safeguard their networks, applications, and mobile devices. This may include firewalls, network monitoring, white listing apps and websites, and anti-virus suites. This is even more pertinent in today’s age of virtualization and migration to the cloud. These moves have created a less secure environment and many statutory compliance standards have not been updated to take into account the inherent risks that these innovations pose to cyber security. Defending the network in the face of these new challenges requires a new security architecture, focusing on deep security. The components of deep security may include deep packet inspection, integrity monitoring, and log inspection, apart from the standard deployments, such as firewall and malware protection suites.

Another key line of additional defense is physical security for the network against both accidental and malicious breaches. This assumes the form of physical locks for the servers, strong access control system to the server room, and secured cabling.

Side-by-side, network administrators aim at 100% uptime, as every second of downtime is catastrophic for online businesses. For this, they need to remain weary of DDOS attackers of various hues and test websites and apps frequently to determine whether they are capable of withstanding sudden bouts of high traffic, or, at least, recognize it.

A data center that hosts the website server is a strategic partner in ensuring the security and uptime of business, and it is important to select a data center that delivers on all these fronts. Lifeline Data Center offers a host of customized solutions with a firm understanding of compliance, security, and up-time, and we are the perfect partners for your online business. Contact us today.

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Data center containment is an area that has been experiencing phenomenal growth in the last couple of years, especially due to its capability of optimizing data center efficiency.

Hot And Cold Aisle Data Center ContainmentTypically, over the years, data centers have been designed with the IT equipment racks arranged in rows. The front of racks from both the sides face each other and are continuously cooled so as to keep the IT equipment inside in a cool state. This thus creates the cold aisle. Similarly, the rear of the racks face each other and are responsible for expelling the hot air out from the IT equipments, thus creating the hot aisle.

Cold aisle containment is the solution by which the cold air is contained in the cold aisle, either by constructing high vertical walls, end of row doors, or aisle ceilings. By this technique, the cold air does not escape out and air flow management is much better. Similarly, hot aisle containment is where the hot air is contained in the hot aisle and is not allowed to mix with the cold air in the cold aisle.

Data center power and cooling efficiency statistics reveal that for every 50kW of power that is supplied to the IT equipment, as much as 100 to 150 kW is needed for supplying cooling to the environment. An alarming 60% of cooling energy gets wasted in the form of bypass air. Data center containment is the solution to this inherent inefficiency and is becoming successful in bringing down the power to cooling ratio to even 1:1 in some cases. Properly implemented containment solutions have been known to reduce utility consumption bills by as much as 30%.

Like any other operational efficiency solution, containment is a solution that has to be managed and needs to be assigned a single owner. Typically, the stakeholders in a data center are the facilities staff, the IT staff, and the data center operations employees. Experts reveal that these 3 groups typically have differences in terms of their favored temperatures, and, therefore, are designating a single owner to the containment implementation is necessary.

Containment is needed in data centers and is a best practice followed by most modern data centers. For more inputs on containment and designing and implementing the best of hot aisle/ cold aisle data center containment techniques, do get in touch with Lifeline Data Centers today.

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The mention of data centers conjures up images of racks and racks of equipment with lights blinking and power supplies buzzing. However, efficient data centers don’t always have to be like that. As of late, data centers have started to apply the minimalist philosophy to data centers as well, so that data centers perform just as efficiently and handle just as much as data as before with less equipment. In fact, in today’s highly competitive world, the square footage should ideally be the least expensive component of data center operations.

Trending: Leaner Data CentersThere are three critical ways for large-scale data centers to reduce their square footage costs.

Many data centers, especially large ones, take the servers running on their premises for granted. The fact remains that many large data centers invariably have many old servers running with very few knowing what these servers do. Empirical evidence suggests that as high as 40 percent of the servers in large and established data centers are unused, yet these servers continue to remain on, as no one is ready to unplug them and risk bringing the entire system crashing. Many old machines are antiquated ones, sucking huge quantities of energy and taking up valuable space. Undertaking a physical audit to remove the unneeded servers, and shift the data to eliminate unneeded servers, would reduce the data center space and racks considerably, reducing all round costs, especially energy and square footage costs.

Many data centers continue to run on bulky legacy servers, as the effort it takes to replace them would be phenomenal and would cause major disruptions to boot. Taking a one-time effort to bite the bullet may be worth its while in creating considerable savings every month. Sleek new generation servers are many times more efficient than bulky old ones.

Another better approach is clustering. This entails a diametric shift in data center setup, doing away with the traditional racks entirely. New generation micro servers come in boxes no more than the size of Rubix’s cubes. Data centers can simply add another micro server to the existing chunk as demand rises. These micro servers consume just a tenth of the power required to operate a conventional quad-core AMD or Intel server, and occupy way less space.

To start a conversation on how to store your data efficiently, contact us at Lifeline Data Centers today.

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Data centers are getting bigger and better, but embracing “green computing” in data centers may very well put the clock back.

Power Management in Data CentersA big challenge in existing data centers is the huge demands of power. The problem is accentuated by the fact that new generation hardware runs faster by using more power. More power means more heat, and more heat means even more power requirement to cool things up. As data centers business continues to grow, more power may not be available. Many planners actually worry that there isn’t enough power to go around for equipment already installed and new equipment would need even more power. It is only a matter of time before systems that are held together delicately start fracturing, taking Internet users offline for hours or even days.

One option for reducing power is using ordinary ambient air by running cooling fans faster and starting to chill only when temperatures reach a higher level, say 32 degrees Celcius. In fact, many data centers in China and equatorial Asia adopt this method as a standard practice.

Another option is proactive power management. Ethernet ports use 40 watts when powered up, even when there is no data passing through them and each data center has thousands of these ports. Monitoring the device and powering it on only when needed helps to reduce energy wastage significantly.

Either way, it is important that data centers keep up to date on how to manage their power and ways to reduce it. To learn more about a power efficient data center setup, contact us at Lifeline Data Centers.

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When it comes to data centers, the traditional image of large halls with lines and lines of racks and full of servers is now passé. New generation data centers are shifting to micro servers that take up just one-eighth of the space of a traditional x86 processor, have more density, are more efficient, and consume considerably less power.

Micro Servers to Create a Paradigm Shift in Data Center ArchitectureNew generation high-density micro servers have a small footprint and low power demand. They consume just anywhere between half to one-tenth of the power, takes up just one-eighth of the space, and costs just one-fourth of the cost, compared to an average x86 processor. The greater density and efficiency  results in savings for energy, square footage costs, and administration costs.  These micro servers, besides reducing square footage costs, also make scaling up and down easy.

It is easy to add physical micro servers by the thousands, to keep up with the increasing number of low demand workloads that require subsecond response times and reliability. It is far more efficient to stock the data center with hordes of these high-density micro servers, each no larger than the size of a Rubick’s cube, rather than the towers of fixed racks. It is easy to remove and throw away these micro servers as well. In fact, websites would be able to leverage micro-servers as an effective alternative to virtualization, for front end workloads.

These micro servers don’t just save on space, but are about four times denser than conventional x86 processors. The shared infrastructure, such as power supplies and cabling, enables high density, making it possible to put up to 12 nodes into a 3U (133mm) chassis.

The micro servers also contribute to simpler network architecture. Traditional data centers feature a labyrinth of network switches and routers, running on proprietary software and operating systems. The shift to micro servers provides an opportunity to implement Software Defined Networks (SDNs) based on a common open source software stack running on standardized system platform. This simplifies the network architecture considerably, further reducing network management costs.

Want to learn more about how to store your data efficiently? Reach out to us at Lifeline Data Centers today.

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Data centers today are facing the reality of a tremendous increase in data capacity requirements. While this new boost comes with the promise of better business benefits for data center owners, it does bring with it the challenge on how best to deliver the additional data needs to their customers.

Should you scale out or scale up?There are two options and possibly a third hybrid approach that data center managers have in front of them to increase the scale of operations.

Scale Out: This basically means adding more servers to the current infrastructure. In other words, the ‘quantity’ based approach. The benefits are simplicity, faster time to implement, and flexibility. The trade-off, of course, is on the space front, as so many more boxes will require that much more space. The cons also include increased data center facility and management staff overhead, latency, and troubleshooting issues. Scale out is typically a popular choice for cloud-based data centers as they service multiple clients that require data storage in the range of petabytes.

Scale Up: This is the other alternative where the data center opts for higher capacity scientifically designed servers to increase computing capacity. This is a ‘quality’ based approach. Ways to scale up are to opt for increased processor speeds, more memory, optimal network resources and high performance database management systems. Though the trend for scientific solutions has decreased, proof of which is the Unix server reporting a 10% decline in year on year revenue in 2013. The scale up is coming back into popularity with those data centers that are pro-virtualization. This solution also uses software to address the additional scaling needs, and often results in increased cooling and power costs. The advantage is that there are many commercial off the shelf solutions (COTS) from vendors such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard that provide all the features bundled into a single package.

Both scale up and scale out are good options and one of them must be selected at the right time for upgrading your data center. Which one works best for you depends a lot on your current infrastructure and your expansion plans for the future. To get the right input on this topic, do get in touch with us at Lifeline Data Centers today.

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