Physical Security for a Data Center

There are numerous complicated documents available – such as the gold standard specs the federal government uses to build embassies and other sensitive facilities, the National Fire Protection Association safety requirements, as well as the infrastructure standards industry groups publish – that provide information to companies on how to design a secure data center. The CSO’s high standards should be making certain that the security of a new data centers built into the design rather than being an ineffectual or expensive afterthought. Learn here how to design functional data centers that will be able to withstand practically anything from corporate espionage artists to natural disasters or terrorism. Though these extra precautions can be costly, they are simply part of building a facility that is secure and can survive even the worst of disasters. Let us discuss nineteen ways to build physical security into a data center.

The Perfect Location

First make sure the location of the center is some distance from the headquarters; about 20 miles should be enough, and it should also be about 100 feet from the main road. Avoid the risk of bad neighbors, chemical facilities, airports or power plants. In addition, do not choose an area prone to earthquakes, floods or hurricanes. Make sure to scrap the data center sign.

Does the Site have Redundant Utilities?

Data centers require two utility sources such as water, electricity, data and voice. You should trace the electricity source back to two separate substations and the water source back to two separate main lines. The two lines ought to be underground and should enter the building from two different points with the main lines of water. If you have difficulty getting these connections, use the anticipated power usage of the data center as a leverage to get the electricity or water company to accommodate the special needs of the building.

Pay Attention to the Walls

The walls should be made of one foot thick concrete since this is thick enough to effectively protect against the elements and even explosives. Walls that have a Kevlar lining further boost the effectiveness of the wall. Concrete is not very expensive.

Avoid Windows

The data center should have a warehouse-like design and not like that of an office building. If windows must be there, then limit them to administrative areas or break rooms and use glass that is laminated with bomb-resistant material.

Use Landscaping for Added Protection

Landscaping such as trees, gulleys and boulders can be useful in obscuring security devices like electric fences, and can conceal the building from cars passing nearby or even prevent them from getting close. In addition, the landscapes help beautify the compound of the facility.

A 100 Foot Buffer Zone 

You can alternatively use crash proof barriers where it is not possible to have landscaping to protect the facility from vehicles. Bollard planters are not only more attractive but also less conspicuous than other types.

Crash Barriers at Vehicle Entry Points

You can control access to the loading dock and the parking area by having a guard station with staff that handle the retractable bollards. Your green light and raised gate act as visual indications that the bollards have been lowered and the driver can proceed. In situations where you might need extra security, you can leave the barriers up by default and only lower them when someone has been granted permission to enter.

Plan for Bomb Detection

For a data center that is highly sensitive or is a likely target, you can have the security guards use mirrors to check for explosives underneath the vehicles, or you can provide them with portable devices for bomb detecting. To respond to a raised threat you can increase the number of vehicles to be checked; for instance employees’ vehicles and delivery trucks.

Limit Entry Points

You can control the building’s access by establishing only one main entrance and a back entrance for the loading dock. This not only secures your facility but also brings down costs.

Make Fire Doors Exit Only

In line with the fire codes your facility should have emergency exits for fire. Nevertheless, these doors should not have a handle on the outside and should be connected to a loud alarm system so that when they are opened they trigger a response from the security team.

Use of Plenty of Cameras

You should have surveillance cameras installed all over the data center facility at all exits and entrances and any other access points in the facility. It is ideal to use a combination of pan-tilt-zoom cameras, low-light cameras, standard fixed cameras and motion-sensor devices. The footage should be recorded digitally and stored in an offsite location.

Protect the Building’s Machinery

The mechanical area of the data center which houses uninterpretable power supplies and environmental systems should be kept strictly off limits. If your generators are outside then secure the area using concrete walls. For the two areas, make certain that all repair crews and contractors are escorted by an employee at all times.

Plan for Secure Air Handling

It is important for data center systems to have air-conditioning, ventilating and heating systems that recirculate air instead of drawing it from outside. This would protect people as well as equipment from chemical or biological attack or even from smoke in case there was a fire nearby. For extra caution, have an alarm system in place to detect any biological or chemical contamination. Ensure that nobody can hide and nothing can be concealed in the ceiling and walls In secure areas of the data center such as the data room itself, make certain the internal walls run all the way from the sub-flooring where wiring is normally housed, to the ceiling.

Use Two-Factor Authentication

There should be a biometric identification to sensitive areas of a data center, while you can use access cards in other less sensitive areas.

Prohibit Food in the Computer Rooms

You should provide a common area where your employees or other people can eat in order not to get food on the equipment. Also install visitors’ restrooms for people who do not have access to secure places in the building.


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