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What is a Data Center? - Definition & Overview

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and experience teaching.

With more and more of business depending on larger and larger amounts of data, data centers are becoming more crucial than ever. This lesson explains what a data center is.

All That Data

Every day, billions of bits of data are gathered by companies, organizations, and governments about consumers, as well as other organizations. After all, practically everyone fills out forms online, uses loyalty cards, or even pays for goods or services using a debit or credit card. In short, there is plenty of data to keep track of.

So what happens to all that data? Simply put, it is stored at data centers, which are centralized locations that house large collections of hard drives and servers that keep all of that data secure. Still, while companies may use their data differently, they all store their data in data centers that are in many ways quite similar.

Who Stores It?

First, what are some reasons that organizations may require data to be held in the first place? Obviously, there are those institutions that require enormous amounts of data to do their work. For example, financial companies need data to make the best decisions for their companies, while technology companies need data centers to hold the information that is called upon in their line of work.

There are other companies that need data as well. Marketing companies keep massive amounts of data on different groups of consumers to produce the best marketing campaigns possible. Finally, the government keeps track of an enormous amount of data as well, on everything from education to national security. No matter what, all of this data requires data centers.

What is a Data Center Like?

So given that data centers are so important, one might expect that they would look like they're important. The opposite is often the case. In most situations, the more nondescript that a data center can be, the better off everyone is. After all, security is an important consideration when it comes to data centers. Additionally, there is really no need for much beyond typical upkeep and landscaping - few investors or customers will ever need to visit, so there isn't anyone to impress.

One thing that will stick out is the temperature. As anyone who has ever let a laptop sit too long on their lap may know, computers get hot. Thousands of servers constantly working produces an enormous amount of heat, so it is no surprise that data centers have plenty of air-conditioning units.

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