Data Centers: Every Square Foot Counts

November 15, 2023 at 1:30 pm by Amanda Canale

In the vast and complex world of data centers, the maximization of space is not just a matter of practicality; it is a crucial aspect that has the power to directly affect a facility’s efficiency, sustainability, flow of operations, and, frankly, financial standing.

Today, information isn’t just power, but rather it serves as the lifeblood for countless industries and systems, making data centers stand as the literal bodyguards of this priceless resource. With the ever-expanding volume of data being generated, stored, and processed, the effective use of space within these centers has become more critical than ever.

In layman’s terms, every square foot of a data center holds tremendous value and significance.

Now, we’re not here to focus on how you can maximize the physical space of your data center; we’re not experts in which types of high-density server racks will allow you more floor space or which HVAC unit will optimize airflow.

What we are going to focus on is our expertise in high-security data destruction, an aspect of data center infrastructure that holds an equal amount of value and significance. We’re also going to focus on the right questions you should be asking when selecting destruction solutions. After all, size and space requirements mixed with compliance regulations are aspects of a physical space that need to be addressed when choosing the right solution.

So, we are posing the question, “When every square foot counts, does an in-house destruction machine make sense?”

Let’s find out.

Data Center IT Specialist and System administrator Talk, Use Tablet Computer, Wearing Safety Wests. Server Clod Farm with Two Information Technology Engineers checking Cyber Security.

The Important Questions

Let’s start off with the basic questions you need to answer before purchasing any sort of in-house data destruction devices.

What are your specific destruction needs (volume, media type, compliance regulations, etc.) and at what frequency will you be performing destruction? 

The first step in determining if an in-house destruction solution is the right move for your facility is assessing your volume, the types of data that need to be destroyed, and whether you will be decommissioning on a regular basis. Are you only going to be destroying hard drives? Maybe just solid state media? What about both? Will destruction take place every day, every month, or once a quarter?

It’s important to also consider factors such as the sensitivity of the data and any industry-specific regulations that dictate the level of security required. Additionally, a high volume of data decommissioning might justify the investment in in-house equipment, while lower-volume needs might require a different kind of solution.

How much physical space can you allocate for in-house equipment?

By evaluating the available square footage in a data center, facility management can ensure that the space allocated for the data destruction equipment is not only sufficient for the machinery but will also allow for efficient workflow and compliance with safety regulations. The dimensions for all of our solutions can be found on our website within their respective product pages.

What is your budget for destruction solutions?

Determining budget constraints for acquiring and maintaining in-house data destruction equipment will allow you to consider not only the upfront costs but also ongoing expenses such as maintenance, training, and potential upgrades. It’s important to note that, in addition to evaluating your budget for ­in-house equipment, the comparison between an in-house solution and cost of a data breach should also be taken into consideration.

All of the answers to these questions will help determine the type of solution (shredder, crusher, disintegrator, etc.), the compliance regulation it should meet (HIPAA, NSA, NIST, etc.), the physical size, and if there should be any custom specifications that should be implemented. 

Warning icon on a digital LCD display with reflection. Concept of cyber attack, malware, ransomware, data breach, system hacking, virus, spyware, compromised information and urgent attention.

Data Breaches: A Recipe for Financial Catastrophes

One of the primary reasons why every square foot counts within data centers is the financial element. Building and maintaining data center infrastructures often come with significant expenses, ranging from real estate and construction to cooling, power supply, and hardware installations, just for starters. It’s important to ensure that you are maximizing both your physical space and your budget to get the most bang for your buck.

But even beyond the physical constraints and considerations, the financial implications can loom overhead, especially in the context of data security.

Data breaches represent not just a threat to digital security but also a financial consequence that can reverberate for years. The fallout from a breach extends far beyond immediate remediation costs, encompassing regulatory fines, legal fees, public relations efforts to salvage a damaged reputation, and the intangible loss of customer trust.

For example, from January to June 2019, there were more than 3,800 publicly disclosed data breaches that resulted in 4.1 billion records being compromised. And according to the IBM and Ponemon Institute report, the cost of an average data breach in 2023 is $4.45 million, a 15% increase over the past three years.

So, while, yes, you want to make sure you are making the best use out of your budget to bring in the necessary equipment and storage capability to truly use up every square foot of space, part of that budget consideration should also include secure in-house solutions. 

You’re probably saying to yourself, “As long as I can outsource my destruction obligations, I can maximize my physical space with said necessary equipment.”

You’re not wrong.

But you’re not necessarily right, either.

The Hidden Costs of Outsourced Data Destruction

Outsourcing data destruction has traditionally been a common practice, with the aim of offloading the burden of secure information disposal. However, as we’ve stated in previous blogs, introducing third party data sanitization vendors into your end-of-life decommissioning procedures can gravely increase the chain of custody, resulting in a far higher risk of data breaches.

Third-party service contracts, transportation costs, and potential delays in data destruction contribute to an ongoing financial outflow. More so, the lack of immediate control raises concerns about the security of sensitive information during transit. For example, in July 2020, the financial institution Morgan Stanley came under fire for an alleged data breach of their clients’ financial information after an IT asset disposition (ITAD) vendor misplaced various pieces of computer equipment that had been storing customers’ sensitive personally identifiable information (PII).

While ITADs certainly have their role within the data decommissioning world, as facilities accumulate more data, and as the financial stakes continue to rise, the need to control the complete chain of custody (including in-house decommissioning) becomes more and more crucial. 

In-House Data Destruction: A Strategic Financial Investment 

Now that your questions have been answered and your research has been conducted, it’s time to (officially) enter the realm of in-house data destruction solutions – an investment that not only addresses security concerns but aligns with the imperative to make every square foot count. 

It’s crucial that we reiterate that while the upfront costs associated with implementing an in-house destruction machine may appear significant, they must be viewed through the lens of long-term cost efficiency and risk mitigation. 

In the battle against data breaches, time is truly of the essence. In-house data destruction solutions provide immediate control over the process, reducing the risk of security breaches during transportation and ensuring a swift response to data disposal needs. This agility becomes an invaluable asset in an era where the threat landscape is continually evolving. In-house data destruction emerges not only as a means of maximizing space but as a financial imperative, offering a proactive stance against the potentially catastrophic financial repercussions of data breaches. 

Whether your journey leads you to a Model 0101 Automatic Hard Drive Crusher or a DC-S1-3 HDD/SSD Combo Shredder, comparing the costs of these solutions (and their average lifespan) to a potential data breach resulting in millions of dollars, makes your answer that much simpler: by purchasing in-house end-of-life data destruction equipment, your facility is making the most cost-effective, safest, and securest decision.

The Hidden Heroes: Environmental Solutions for Data Centers

October 30, 2023 at 3:31 pm by Amanda Canale

Behind the scenes of our increasingly interconnected world, lie the hidden heroes of today’s data centers — environmental controls.  

Data centers must be equipped with a multitude of environmental controls, ranging from electricity monitoring and thermal control to air flow and quality control and fire and leak suppression, all of which play pivotal roles in maintaining an optimal environment for data centers to operate effectively and sufficiently.

Embracing compliance regulations and standards aimed at reducing energy consumption and promoting sustainability is an essential step towards a data center’s greener future (not to mention a step towards a greener planet).

Electricity Monitoring

It’s a no-brainer that the main component of a data center’s ability to operate is electricity. In fact, it’s at the center of, well, everything we do now in the digital age.

It is also no secret that data centers are notorious for their high energy consumption, so managing their electricity usage efficiently is essential in successfully maintaining their operations. Not to mention that any disruption to the supply of electricity can lead to catastrophic consequences, such as data loss and service downtime. With electricity monitoring, data centers can proactively track their consumption and identify any service irregularities in real time, allowing facilities to mitigate risk, reduce operational costs, extend the lifespan of their equipment, and guarantee uninterrupted service delivery.

The Role of Uptime Institute’s Tier Classification in Electrical Monitoring

The Uptime Institute’s Tier Classification and electricity monitoring in data centers are intrinsically linked as they both play pivotal roles in achieving optimal reliability and efficiency. The world-renowned Tier Classification system provides data centers with the framework for designing and evaluating their infrastructure based on four stringent tiers. Tier IV is the system’s most sophisticated tier, offering facilities 99.995% uptime per year, or less than or equal to 26.3 minutes of downtime annually.

Utilizing the Tier Classifications in their electricity monitoring efforts, data centers can fine-tune their power infrastructure for peak efficiency, reducing energy waste and operating costs along the way.

Read more about the vitality of the Uptime Institute’s Tier Classification in our recent blog, here.

Thermal and Humidity Control 

The temperature and humidity within a data center’s walls hold significant value in maintaining the operational efficiency, sustainability, and integrity of a data center’s IT infrastructure.  

Unfortunately, finding that sweet spot between excessive dryness and high moisture levels can be a bit tricky. 

According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), data centers should aim to operate between 18 – 27oC, or 64.4 – 80.6 oF; however, it’s important to note that this range is just a recommendation and there are currently no mandates or compliance regulations detailing a specific temperature.

Meanwhile, AVTECH Software, a private computer hardware and software developer company, suggest a data center environment should maintain ambient relative humidity within 45-55%, with a minimum humidity rate of 20%. 

Thankfully, due to the exponential rise in data centers over time, there are countless devices available to monitor both temperature and humidity levels.

Striking the right balance in thermal and humidity levels helps safeguard the equipment and maintain a reliable, stable, and secure data center environment. Efficient cooling systems help optimize energy consumption, reducing operational costs and environmental impact, whereas humidity controls prevent condensation, static electricity buildup, and electrostatic discharge, which can damage the more delicate components. 

Air Flow Management and Quality Control

Here’s a question for you: ever be working late on your laptop with a bunch of windows and programs open, and it starts to sound like it’s about to take off for space?

That means your laptop is overheating and is lacking proper airflow.

Air flow management and air quality control serve as two sides of the same coin: both contribute to equipment reliability, energy efficiency, and optimal health and safety for operators.

Air Flow Management 

Regardless of their scale, when data centers lack proper airflow management, they can easily become susceptible to hotspots. Hotspots are areas within data centers and similar facilities that become excessively hot from inadequate cooling, ultimately leading to equipment overheating, potential failures, and, even worse, fires. Not only that, but inefficient air flow results in wasted energy and money and requires other cooling systems to work overtime.

By strategically arranging specially designed server racks, implementing hot and cold aisle containment systems, and installing raised flooring, data centers can ensure that cool air is efficiently delivered to all their server components while hot air is effectively pushed out. While meticulous and stringent, this level of management prolongs the lifespan of expensive hardware and gravely reduces energy consumption, resulting in significant cost savings and environmental benefits. 

Air Quality Control

Airborne contaminants, such as dust, pollen, and outside air pollution, can severely clog server components and obstruct airflow, leading to equipment overheating and failures and eventually other catastrophic consequences. Not to mention, chemical pollutants from cleaning supplies and other common contaminants such as ferrous metal particles from printers and various mechanical parts, concrete dust from unsealed concrete, and electrostatic dust all play a role in corroding sensitive and critical circuitry.

Air quality control systems, including advanced air filtration and purification technologies, help maintain a pristine environment by removing these airborne particles and contaminants. These additional systems allow facilities to extend their server and network equipment lifespans, operate at peak efficiency, and reduce the frequency of costly replacements and repairs, all while contributing to data center reliability and data security.

Fire Suppression 

The significance of fire suppression in data centers lies in the ability to quickly and effectively prevent and combat fires, ultimately minimizing damage and downtime. Due to the invaluable data, assets, and infrastructure within data centers, these suppression systems are designed to detect and put out fires in their earliest stages to prevent them from spreading and escalating. 

Data centers use a variety of cutting-edge technologies such as early warning smoke detection, heat sensors, water mist sprinkler systems, smoke and fire controlling curtains, and even clean agents like inert gases, which leave no residue, thus further safeguarding the integrity of the sensitive equipment.

Causes of Fires in Data Centers

Electrical failures are the most common cause for data center fires, and often stem from overloaded circuits, equipment malfunctions, and defective wiring. They can also be started by electrical surges and arc flashes, otherwise known as an electrical discharge that is ignited by low-impedance connections within the facility’s electrical system.

Lithium-ion Batteries have a high energy density and are typically placed near a facility’s servers to ensure server backup power in the case of a main power failure. However, lithium-ion batteries burn hotter than lead-acid batteries, meaning that if they overheat, their temperature can trigger a self-perpetuating reaction, further raising the batteries’ temperatures.

Insufficient maintenance such as failing to clean and repair key data center components, such as servers, power supplies, and cooling systems can quickly lead to dust and particle accumulation. Dust, particularly conductive dust, when allowed the time to build up on these components, can potentially cause short circuits and overheating, both which can lead to a fire.

Human error is inevitable and can play a large part in data center fires and data breaches, despite all of the advanced technologies and safety measures in place. These types of errors range from improper equipment handling, poor cable management, inadequate safety training, overloading power sources, and more.

 Leak Detection

Remember when we said that it is no secret that data centers are notorious for their high energy consumption? The same can be said for their water usage. 

On average, data centers in the U.S. use approximately 450 million gallons of water a day in order to generate electricity and to keep their facilities cool. Any kind of failure within a data center’s cooling system can lead to a coolant leak, which can further lead to catastrophic consequences, such as costly downtime, data loss, and irreparable damage to their expensive equipment. 

Leak detection systems’ role is of extreme importance in safeguarding data centers because they promptly identify and alert facility staff to any leaks that can cause water damage to critical servers, networking equipment, and other valuable assets. Raised floors also act as a protective barrier against potential water damage, for they keep sensitive equipment elevated above the floor, reducing the risk of damage and downtime.

The Role of SEM

Data centers operate in controlled environments and have state-of-the-art air quality and flow management systems to achieve equipment reliability, energy efficiency, and optimal health and safety for operators. This much we know.

What we also know is just how important in-house data decommissioning is to maintaining data security. In-house data decommissioning is the process of securely and ethically disposing of any data that is deemed “end-of-life,” allowing enterprises to keep better control over their data assets and mitigate breaches or unauthorized access. 

So, how does in-house data decommissioning play into a data center’s environmental controls?

Well, the process of physically destroying data, especially through techniques like shredding or crushing, can often release fine particle matter and dust into the air. This particle matter can potentially sneak its way into sensitive equipment, clog cooling systems, and degrade the facility’s overall air quality, like we discussed earlier.

At SEM, we have a wide range of data center solutions for the destruction of hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) that are integrated with HEPA filtration, acting as a crucial barrier against airborne contaminants. HEPA filtration enhances air quality, improving operator and environmental health and safety.

Conclusion

Temperature and humidity control, air quality and airflow management, fire suppression, and leak detection all work together to create a reliable and efficient environment for data center equipment. Combined with stringent physical security measures, power and data backup regulations, compliance mandates, and proper documentation and training procedures, data center operators can ensure uninterrupted service and protect valuable data assets. 

As technology continues to evolve, the importance of these controls in data centers will only grow, making them a cornerstone of modern computing infrastructure.

SEM Celebrates Earth Day with Neighborhood Cleanup

May 16, 2023 at 7:30 am by Amanda Canale

WESTBOROUGH, MA May 5, 2023 – Security Engineered Machinery Co., Inc. (SEM), global leader in high security information end-of-life solutions, spent Thursday, April 27, 2023 walking up and down Walkup Drive in Westborough, MA, where their headquarters are located, picking up trash. 

The SEM Culture Committee, a group of voluntary employees that plan interactive philanthropic and team-building activities, partnered with the company’s ISO 14001 task force to collaborate on an event to honor Earth Day, an annually recognized day centered around environmental protection celebrated on April 22. 

“At SEM, we are committed to protecting our environment in a multitude of ways,” says Lara Rapport, SEM Director of Quality. “Our ISO 14001 certification as just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the continuous improvements we make in order to be as sustainable and environmentally conscious as possible.”

ISO 14001 is a familial set of standards developed in the mid-1990s to help organizations minimize how their operations negatively affect the environment (or cause adverse changes in air, water, or land), educating the organization on how to comply with applicable laws, regulations, and other environmental standards, and how they can sustain their efforts.

“Our cleanup initiative was something that our two groups had collaborated on as a way to not only educate our team on our ISO 14001 efforts, but also to really drive home the message that we can make serious change when it comes to our local environment,” says Amanda Canale, SEM Marketing Coordinator. 

The two teams worked closely with the Westborough Department of Public Works to coordinate the delivery of empty waste bags and the pickup of the collected trash. The cleanup event saw an attendance of over twenty employees, including company president, Andrew Kelleher. The cleanup activity is just the latest in the company’s detailed history of giving back to their local community, adding itself amongst the annual food bank and toy donations, and Operation Playhouse. 

“We have always prioritized events and activities that are both interactive and morale-boosting, and serve a philanthropic purpose, and this one was our most well-received yet. We will be making this an annual SEM tradition,” states Rapport.

For more information on Security Engineered Machinery’s environmental policy, visit here.