Multi-tenant data center (MTDC) operators must assess and balance numerous factors when investing in information technology (IT) equipment — including affordability, efficiency, sustainability, reliability, and agility. Striking the right balance of features and capabilities is critical to succeeding in this increasingly competitive market.

One often-overlooked but crucial consideration when it comes to choosing IT resources is security — both physical and virtual. MTDCs house not only a high volume of valuable IT equipment – including uninterruptible power systems (UPSs) that ensure uptime of critical electrical systems — but also highly sensitive data. Clients such as government agencies and hospitals have even greater security needs due to the classified nature of their data.

Here are three key ways to strengthen security in your data center while providing existing and potential clients with valuable peace of mind:

Select the Right Enclosures

Your security strategy should start and end with the enclosure, as it is the last line of defense in protecting critical IT equipment. There are several factors to consider when selecting an enclosure:

  • Space and environment: Where do you need to secure equipment (e.g., is it in a separate room or an open area where many people have access to it?). Are you in a location with significant vibrations or one that’s prone to an earthquake?
  • Equipment and cabling: Will equipment be kept under lock and key at the rack level? Will you need access to the rack from the bottom or top for cabling purposes?
  • Other considerations: Will you need backup power for your IT environment — either rackmount or free-standing? Do you have a way to remotely monitor the environment and temperature? How will you keep equipment at an ideal temperature?

Racks and enclosures are just one piece of the puzzle, but they lay the foundation for protecting your IT equipment so it lasts for years.

Organize Your Enclosures and Cables

Once you’ve selected the perfect enclosure, the next step is to properly organize cables. Proper cable management improves airflow and lessons the risk of equipment overheating. An organized rack decreases human errors, increases efficiency and better protects equipment by increasing effective airflow, particularly in an enclosure. By using the correct cable management accessories to organize, route and remove unnecessary stress on your cables, you can better ensure data integrity. A careful airflow management strategy also ensures that IT equipment is operating at consistent, predictable temperatures. There are several ways to improve your enclosure organization:

  • Limit employee access to racks and enclosures (and even the room).
  • If a cable isn’t being used, have it removed. Loose cables are a safety hazard.
  • Limit the length of cables (the longer the cables, the greater the chaos).
  • Avoid cables that dangle, which are a target for human error.
  • Avoid extensive bending of cables; adhere to appropriate bend radius recommendations.
  • Properly and securely install power cables to minimize arc flash risk.
  • Make sure plugs are secure.
  • Ensure cables are protected from sharp objects.
  • Study industry standards and regulations on designing, installing, and testing structured cable.

By employing some of these basic cable management strategies, you will also save yourself a lot of headaches when it’s time to add, remove or revamp the equipment in your rack or enclosure.

Don’t Overlook Physical Security

While cyber-security remains incredibly important, it is only effective if accompanied by a comprehensive physical security strategy.

  • Avoid waterworks: Unexpected storm flooding isn’t the only water threat for server rooms. Never back your space up to a “wet wall” containing any pipes or plumbing, as breaks or leaks can cause significant equipment damage.
  • Keep cool: make sure your server room is temperature-controlled. It’s generally recommended that temperature inside a rack doesn’t exceed 73°F. Sensors are best located in the server racks or enclosures rather than in the room, since ambient temperature will rise at a slower pace compared to the temperature in the rack or enclosure. Humidity also poses a great risk to equipment. Relative humidity in server rooms should remain around 50% with a 10% margin.
  • Play it safe: If possible, construct your server room with no external entry points (windows or additional doors) and make sure it remains under lock and key.
  • Get fired up: While it’s likely that the building surrounding the server room is equipped with a fire detection and sprinkler system, the room itself should have its own protection that utilizes an alternative such as a clean agent system — which extinguishes fires by removing head — or inert gases, which essentially suffocate the fire by depriving it of oxygen.
  • Hire the right security: Finally, hiring a sufficient number of security professionals and regularly changing up patrol patterns not only protects data from external threats, but assures clients that their data is secure.

As more companies shift mission-critical IT systems to virtualized infrastructures, data center professionals face increasing pressure to consolidate resources and lower costs. With the right security strategy for your multi-tenant data center, you can meet these challenges without compromising on value for your customers.