All data centers need a physical security system – Here is why!

Published December 6, 2018   |   

There’s an ever-growing need for online security in the 21st century, especially amongst modern data centers. As these facilities are prime targets for hackers and identity thieves, it’s critical to protect your digital assets with multiple layers of security – firewalls, encryption and private, password-protected servers are all useful when it comes to keeping the online threats at bay. But these aren’t the only perils facing data centers of today – physical attacks and natural disasters can cause just as much damage.

Inside threats

We’ve been taught to take a layered approach to online security, but this strategy also applies when designing your physical security system. Digital key cards – which restrict employee access to certain parts of the facility – are far more secure than the traditional key and lock. But what happens if the key card is lost, stolen or damaged?

To provide additional layers, try coupling each key card with biometric data, such as retinal or fingerprint scanning and recognition. For even more protection, utilize a PIN system, too. Not only does this make it nearly impossible for an unauthorized person to gain physical access to your data center, but it can make it easier to restore access to authorized employees if necessary.

But don’t forget to revoke the access of ex-employees. There are numerous cases where disgruntled or recently fired system administrators sought revenge by deleting critical information, crashing networks or changing passwords. While some of these attacks occurred while the employee was technically still a part of the company, many happen after the fact. You can stop these incidents from occurring by changing your system passwords and modifying individual user rights as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Outside threats

So far we’ve talked a lot about protecting your data center from inside physical threats, like disgruntled employees, but we haven’t touched on outside dangers. Spiteful or malevolent visitors, competitor spies and even extreme weather can all pose a threat to the physical security of your facility.

If the idea of tech-savvy spies and data center espionage seems far-fetched to you, consider the fact that many data centers – including the facilities at Washington University in St. Louis – have a strict policy that ensures all guests are accompanied by an authorized escort whenever they’re in a sensitive area of the college. Other data centers have similar rules to prevent guests from stealing information on proprietary equipment, data storage policies or other confidential information.

But the majority of malicious guests or would-be spies can be stopped at the front gate. An automated security gate is essential for the physical security of nearly any property, but it’s especially useful in front of a data center. Not only can the main entrance be manned by armed security guards, who are trained to spot suspicious behavior right from the start, but complementary gates work well throughout the premises – both inside and out – to help prevent an intrusion or slow the movements of an unauthorized intruder.

Another threat comes in the form of inclement weather. Although there’s little you can do to stop the whims of Mother Nature, you can prepare your facility for the potential of severe weather. This is mostly a regional practice – some areas are more prone to extreme weather than others, and different regions require protection from different threats. Whereas a catastrophic hurricane or flooding might be a risk for a data center located on the East Coast, one in the Midwest United States is better off preparing for a tornado. Data centers on the West Coast will find it beneficial to prepare for earthquakes.

Protecting data from online and physical threats

Now that you have a clearer understanding of some of the primary threats facing your data center, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge to use. Start with the most immediate and controllable risk – your current and former employees – and continue from there. Many of these policies will also work with guests and visitors, which you can vet through a combination of security gates, video surveillance systems, and personal escorts. Once all of these safeguards are in place, you can start to think about protecting your site from the next natural disaster.