Could the data centre be the key to digital transformation?

While discussions on the possibilities and practicalities of digital transformation have become regular features in the boardroom, the role of the data centre has often been neglected. The data centre, however, could well be the key to enabling transformation strategies to flourish, providing a catalyst for change.

The Cloud Industry Forum’s (CIF) latest research indicates that digital transformation is becoming a growing talking point for the UK’s business decision-makers. Of the 250 senior IT and business decision-makers polled, 71 per cent either already have a strategy in place or are in the process of implementing one. One of the chief beneficiaries of this change will undoubtedly be cloud computing providers – according to Alex Hilton, CEO of CIF, cloud computing and digital disruption go 'hand-in-hand'. This claim is further supported from the research as those organisations that have already implemented a digital transformation strategy, 79 per cent say that the cloud is an important part of this process.

Is the cloud secure enough for businesses?

It is easy to see why cloud services are so important to the digital transformation agenda. At its essence, cloud computing has allowed organisations to break down the traditional barriers often associated with IT management by offering access to unlimited computing resources without the need for significant Capex expenditure. Because of this, businesses are now free to adapt to market changes quicker and take more risks, safe in the knowledge that they are no longer bound by fixed IT constraints.

The research however, also indicates that many decision-makers harbour doubts about their capacity to guard their data throughout the process of migrating to the cloud. 75 per cent of respondents referenced that they were concerned about data security and 56 per cent are concerned about data privacy. This is not entirely surprising as the concept of digital transformation is still fairly new, and many decision-makers are still getting accustomed to the complexities of cloud computing – not to mention a raft of technological advances such as big data, high performance computing (HPC) and virtual reality. Data centres ultimately act as the glue that binds cloud computing to the new digital disruption, enabling companies to embark on large-scale migrations with confidence.

What about the data centre?

Data centres provide a level of confidence to customers that comes with knowing where their data is stored and having physical access to that data. Splitting resources between cloud applications and data centre solutions is therefore a savvy tactic to avoid the risk of having all assets in one place, especially during the migration towards digital transformation.

Data centres can guarantee physical security in a tangible way. Although physical security attacks are less likely than cyber attacks due to the level of risk required by attackers, they can still ultimately lead to a loss of data, infrastructure damage, and even possible harm to staff. Data centres typically provide upwards of seven layers of security, with various security measures including locked doors requiring biometric scans, guard posts, and even man traps in the event of a breach. The human element that many data centres possess is invaluable, providing a constant security presence to safeguard data.

In addition to the benefits of physical security, data centres are able to work in unison with a digital transformation strategy to drive down costs. Digital transformation demands flexible and bespoke IT capabilities that render a Capex approach increasingly unsustainable. The advantage of using an Opex approach with data centres is that it provides both flexibility of usage and a degree of financial reassurance. Data centres allow organisations to effectively budget for their usage as they already have all the vital physical assets - the building, storage, and connectivity capabilities - in place. This removes the risk of fluctuation within the financial forecasting process, brought about by any unexpected IT changes or failings, allowing for greater accuracy when budgeting and defining long-term expenditure. Digital transformation can involve moving strategies and unanticipated changes, and having the flexibility of a fully equipped data centre can provide stability in those shifting sands.

Experience and expertise

It would be a shame, however, to restrict the third-party to the mechanics of data storage. Data centres are often repositories of expertise and experience, and always savour the opportunity to deploy that knowledge on organisations’ digital strategies to help them future-proof their IT estates. With HPC moving into the mainstream, driven by the proliferation of data streams such as mobile, social, analytics, and the cloud, data centre providers are increasingly being asked to support denser configurations. Their power and cooling abilities can outperform the capabilities of traditional mechanical and electrical infrastructures, allowing data centre providers to be effective partners in digital transformation.

Data centre providers combine the stability of storing data in a physical location with the flexibility of an Opex approach. This combination ensures that organisations can work with data centres to deploy the necessary scalability and flexibility needed to implement an effective digital transformation strategy, which can ultimately make their businesses fit for today and tomorrow.

Greg McCulloch, CEO at Aegis Data

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