Cloud infrastructure. Data security. Onshore and offshore data centres. These are all terms many people have no doubt heard, but might not truly understand or know much about. But as we continue to move into new realms of technology in business, all of these concepts will likely become part of your company’s day-to-day operations, no matter how big or small.
We recently sat down with Derrek Lush, Dantia Development Executive, to talk all things data and look towards the future of business computing.
Up in the clouds
Ask anyone where most of their data is stored these days and they’ll probably respond “in the cloud”. But what does this mean, exactly?
“Cloud computing is moving your business’ essential digital data and sometimes software applications off of the local device that sits on your computer,” Derrek explains. Traditionally, businesses moved their data to a local server – a large rack of computing devices in the office building (which often overheated and needed the attention of the IT guy). “That was the first move into remote computing,” Derrek continues. “The ‘cloud’ moved all that stuff that sat in that rack to a bigger rack, in a bigger building, owned by bigger companies that could better sustain it and manage it.”
The influence of cloud computing, both in business and day-to-day life, has been immense. In a business sense, it has allowed for more computing power and given people the ability to store more data than it was previously possible to store locally. “All of the infrastructure is located in one spot,” Derrek says. “Everyone goes to the mountain rather than sending pieces of the mountain down to Muhammad.”
Cloud computing was growing rapidly even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s now the clear path for businesses looking toward the future. As well as enabling smoother and more secure data storage and transmission (more on that below), it lends itself well to remote working and flexibility in the workforce.
“You might house all of your company’s information in one location, and then allow people to work from any location by accessing that data through cloud services or cloud-based infrastructure. You can then access a pool of talent that’s over a broader area rather than having everyone come into the office,” Derrek explains. “Businesses are having to adopt to [cloud computing] to become more agile and responsive to their customer. Business is all about staying relevant… If you’re not following that trend, you’re at risk of being left behind.”
Keeping data front and centre
So what exactly are the buildings that host all this cloud infrastructure and store all this data? Pretty self-explanatorily, they are called data centres – and the closer a data centre is to your business, the quicker you’re able to access the data it stores. For this reason, and others we’ll look into below, there’s been an increasing demand in recent years for onshore data centres, rather than those located overseas (often by large corporations like Amazon).
“It boils down to two things: security and speed,” Derrek says of the uptake in local data centres – and in the turmoil of a pandemic and widespread political unrest, the emphasis on security seems to be particularly strong. It’s now more important than ever to ensure the security of your data; federal cyber security policy reflects this, and is another big driver of the need for safe data management and storage. “If you don’t have confidence that data you’ve collected about a client meets the requirements that you as a business have to adhere to [under federal policy], you need to find a data centre that can satisfy those requirements,” Derrek points out. “Basing it in an offshore data warehouse or data centre might not satisfy the privacy requirements … so that’s pushing a lot of the requirement for data centres locally.”
In addition to security, increased demand for onshore data centres is also driven by the need for business resilience (can you bounce back after data loss, corruption or a cyber security breach?), as well as the sheer amount of data being collected. Having a backup location for business data that is secure and stored nearby for ease and speed of use is essential. As Derrek sums up: “For large corporations – or even small businesses that are working on sensitive projects – they need to know where their data is at all times.” (By “all times”, he means at rest, in transit and in use, the three basic states of data – all of which must involve security measures of some sort.)
Lake Mac on the leading edge
All of the above may be leading to new data centres popping up around the Newcastle and Lake Mac area sooner than you might think. Earlier this year, data centre service provider Leading Edge DC revealed plans to invest almost $20 million into a data centre campus in Newcastle, as part of its plan to roll out more than 20 data centres across Australia. “It’s great infrastructure, and it’s taking a leap of faith, which is wonderful to see,” Derrek says of the project. “It’s a big investment, but it’s looking to the future, and it starts to build some of the infrastructure that we need to have as a region to have discussions with businesses we’re trying to attract.”
As data demands increase and further technology developments like 5G come into play, Derrek predicts that we will be seeing further trends of smaller data centres being rolled out in closer proximity, as opposed to one large centre for an entire region. The Lake Macquarie/Newcastle area is particularly well-placed for such developments; available land, power station proximity and the location of a major fibre path running past the city all make for an ideal spot.
“The higher-tier data centre, where it’s a large data centre with more uptime, more capacity, backup generators, fibre path and pipelines, bandwidth – they are ideal to establish in this location, because they are geographically isolated from some of the big business headquarters in Sydney and Brisbane,” Derrek explains. “There’s good tracts of land, it’s easier to provide the security, there’s high power, good linkages to power stations… It ticks all of those boxes, and it also has that geographical separation from the big businesses – [whereas] if power goes down on the grid in Sydney, the data centre that’s on that grid might struggle and need to cut over to its backup generators or be at risk of losing power.”
This suitability means good things for business in the Lake Mac and Newcastle areas. With tech-based innovations like data centre development and the Internet of Things network in place, there’s never been a better place to do business. “The ability to access workforce is great from this location, and [there’s] a diverse range of skillsets,” Derrek adds. “We’ve got the infrastructure to support the back end: the data centres, the transport infrastructure, all those pieces that need to be lined up. And it’s a nicer place to live!”