Data Centers

Secret data centers can't hide anymore

Many people in the mainstream may not know what the "cloud" is -- even if they live or work right next door to it. A USA Today report profiles the growth and importance of huge data centers across the U.S.

A recent article by Judy Keen in USA Today, takes an in-depth look at the proliferation of huge data centers across the country: "Buildings house secret servers that keep Net humming." While the existence of these big data centers might be news to many who don't ever think about the sprawling aisles of servers that power their Facebook profiles or Gmail accounts, the tech community is, of course, all too familiar with the idea. Still, Keen's profile of various data centers -- both urban and rural -- and the degree of security and secretiveness involved in some locations, makes for an interesting read.

There are about 13,000 large data centers around the world, 7,000 of them in the USA, says Michelle Bailey, a vice president at IDC, a market research company that monitors the industry. Growth stalled during the recession, but her company estimates about $22 billion will be spent on new centers worldwide this year.

I thought it was interesting how old facilities, from water tanks to former mines to refurbished manufacturing plants, are being reborn as modern data centers. Security measures are also of interest:

Some data centers have "traps" that isolate intrusions by unauthorized individuals, technology that weighs people as they enter and sounds an alarm if their weight is different when they depart, bulletproof walls and blast-proof doors, Bailey says.

The video below profiles the underground Iron Mountain Data Center, site of an old limestone mine, in Butler County, PA.


Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...


When I was in security, it was a crime to even talk about it. Revealing this location could present a challenge to some necro monger.


I'm sure physical security was considered, and factored in, when permission to film was given. I would consider that what little was revealed here could bring out neophytes and non-professionals to challenge the gates, thereby giving Iron Mountain security real-world practice on penetration detection and deflection. The real danger here isn't physical but electronic. Facilities operation would be a much more likely target. Put a logic bomb in the air-circulation regulation system and this place becomes uninhabitable. I saw nothing indicating an address or other means of remote penetration. I think they're in no real danger.

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