IT professionals have good reason to be paranoid

IT organisations have a lot on their plates, and keeping the data centre humming is only part of the equation. Factor in the threats coming at IT from every direction, and you can see why IT pros have ample reason to be paranoid.

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IT organisations have a lot on their plates, and keeping the data centre humming is only part of the equation. Factor in the threats coming at IT from every direction, and you can see why IT pros have ample reason to be paranoid.

The invasion of consumer devices into the workplace, the rush toward cloud computing, the constant vigilance to prevent data spills, all while managing a meager budget in an era when your career can be cut short at any time can cause even the most level-headed IT pro to start looking over his shoulder.

"I met with the CIO at a Fortune 30 company recently and asked him, 'What keeps you up at night?'" says Jon Heirmel, director of strategic security for Solutionary, an enterprise security and compliance consultancy. "He answered, 'The things that keep me up at night are the things I don't know.' And that's the answer: the unknown. If you don't know what to worry about, that's what you should be worrying about."

Here are the top five things that should be keeping you awake at night, if they don't already.

IT paranoia No. 5: Your data centre will go down

It's the pulsing heart of your IT organisation. If your data centre goes down, it can take the entire enterprise with it. For many IT pros, keeping the data centre running 24/7 is enough to keep them awake 24/7.

What could go wrong? How about what couldn't go wrong? From natural disasters to massive power outages, loss of connectivity, server meltdowns, cyber espionage, insider sabotage, burglaries and more, the threats are as varied as the types of organisations that have to deal with them.

Simon Taylor knows this firsthand. In his career, he's lost two data centres because of nearby terrorist attacks: one to an IRA bombing in the mid-1990s, and the other on 9/11. He's now chairman of Next Generation Data, a UK-based wholesale data centre operator that provides facilities for major wireless carriers, banks, government agencies and other top-tier clients.

When Next Generation Data built its new state-of-the-art facility near Cardiff, it constructed what Taylor describes as "the Fort Knox of data centres", a fortress-like structure deliberately located far from urban centers, flood plains, highways, and the flight path. The perimeter is ringed with prison-grade barbed-wire fence and infrared sensors. The 75,000-square-meter building also features ram-proof concrete barriers and bullet- and bomb-proof glass, employee access is controlled via retina scans and security is provided by former British special forces personnel.

"These people are vetted at the highest level, to make sure no one's got a dim and distant past that might prove worrisome, which can prove quite difficult with ex-servicemen, many of whom have blood on their hands," Taylor says. "We do all this to attract customers who require the ultimate in security."

Power outages? Not likely. The facility sits on top of a substation with the ability to draw up to 180 million volt amperes directly from the grid, enough to power a small city, says Taylor. An added benefit, South Wales is naturally temperate, keeping cooling costs low, and unlikely to suffer earthquakes, hurricanes, brush fires, or other natural disasters.

And if the unthinkable happens, NGD will be ready. It's building a second secure site to offer data replication and disaster recovery to existing clients.

Yet simply keeping the data centre running (and armed to the teeth) isn't enough. IT managers are also under constant pressure to reduce data centre costs, says Gary Marks, VP for Raritan, a provider of power management and remote access solutions.

"I think data centre managers still worry in the back of their minds about somebody accidentally smacking that button by the door that shuts everything down," says Marks. "But with primary power redundancy and checks and balances in place for generators, I think the assurance you're going to have some form of reliable power has gone up exponentially. Today the worries go beyond the delivery of power and more to the cost and efficiency of the power you have delivered."

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