Data is the lifeblood of the digital age. It’s estimated that more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day — an astonishing total that is both abstract and illustrative. It’s also just the beginning. Data usage increased by nearly 50% during the COVID-19 pandemic, and today’s digital-first ethos ensures this trend will continue well into the future. 

What’s more, this data is incredibly valuable and uniquely vulnerable. It’s been half a decade since data surpassed oil as the world’s most valuable commodity. However, many organizations are still grappling with the security implications of collecting and storing such valuable resources. 

According to the 2022 Data Center & Infrastructure Report, “There is a continued need for strengthening security, reducing costs, and on-premises data centers.” 

However, while companies are expected to pour more than $170 billion on IT security, physical security standards remain outdated and inadequate. Meanwhile, 10% of malicious attacks are caused by physical breaches, making security enhancements a meaningful pursuit for businesses collecting and storing valuable information. 

With the costs and consequences of a breach becoming more catastrophic, there are three keys to enhancing physical security at data centers this year. 

1. Understand the risks 

Companies chronically underinvest in physical security, relying on access cards, fingerprint readers, and security guards to keep facilities and staff secure. These practices are often decades old, and trespassers quickly learn to leverage security vulnerabilities to compromise building security. 

For example, access cards have a generic aesthetic, making them susceptible to loss, theft, or unauthorized sharing. Since access control cards grant widespread access and don’t reliably identify entrants, many data centers operate without real-time monitoring capacity that identifies issues or anomalies related to a security breach.

If a trespasser uses stolen credentials, the threat actor can operate with near impunity while undermining physical security and data privacy. At the same time, paying security guards to protect sometimes disparately located or lightly attended facilities is a financial nonstarter. Additionally, the human nature of security guards introduces issues, including boredom, distraction, disengagement, or potential manipulation, that are eliminated by more modern solutions. 

Simply put, outdated security solutions can be lost, stolen, or dysfunctional, allowing threat actors easy access to data storage facilities. 

2. Understand the shifting operational environment 

Data centers are striving to protect data in a new operational reality. Hybrid work is here to stay, which is excellent news for companies and their employees, but it can introduce new security vulnerabilities as they embrace flexible on-site work schedules. 

Additionally, many physical spaces have been altered by pandemic realities that may require periodic social distancing measures, mask requirements, or other public health accommodations. 

Finally, security is made more difficult by persistent hiring challenges preventing companies from hiring cybersecurity teams or on-site personnel to keep data centers secure. This trend is unlikely to abate anytime soon. More than 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November 2021, a record that’s emblematic of remote flexibility, making it more difficult for data centers to attract and retain security staff. One estimate found that data centers will need to identify or develop 300,000 new professionals by 2025 to keep up with staffing demands. 

Taken together, data centers will need to operate with new agility to enhance or maintain their defensive posture in the year ahead. 

3. Understand the latest technologies 

Technological advancements can support these outcomes. Data centers can leverage high-tech access control solutions to implement cost-effective, touchless, and easy-to-install security functionality that uniquely identifies employees and other authorized entrants. 

Most prominently, important developments in AI capabilities have made autonomous security solutions a reality. As a result, modern access control technologies can adapt to environmental changes with increasingly capable levels of intelligent insights, risk adaptability, and interoperability. These systems can process data faster and more accurately without bias or distraction. 

What’s more, they can leverage biometric input, like facial recognition, to enable frictionless, touchless access control that balances accessibility and security. 

That’s not to say that technology can solve every security challenge, but data centers can look to the latest technologies to elevate their defensive capabilities.

Security Enhancements 

Businesses understand they have to protect their valuable assets. Banks install sophisticated vaults and restrict access to these locations, museums erect barriers to valuable artifacts, and data centers employ armies of cybersecurity savants to protect online information. 

Data will continue to become an even more valuable asset in the digital age, requiring data centers to consider a 360-degree security approach that accounts for online and in-person risks. As leaders look to make security enhancements, they should fully understand the risks, the shifting operational environment, and the latest technologies to best protect data center facilities.