Monday, 26th August 2019
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UK Data Centres - the unsung heroes of the tech revolution?

By Jack Bedell-Pearce, Managing Director, 4D.

The last 20 years has seen the cementing of The Information Age, characterised by seismic shifts in consumer behaviour thanks to the onset of the digital revolution. Technological developments have led to massive simplification of information technology for the average consumer, and our everyday reliance on apps and social media has come to dominate and change our fundamental behaviours - leading social scientists such as Nicholas Carr to question if technology is even rewiring our brains.

We’re all familiar with how Apple led the way with easy to navigate smart phones and tablets and that the proliferation of apps and social media content accelerated change all around us. However, if apps, social media and cloud were the 21st Century equivalent of the gold rush, then arguably data centres operators are the guys selling the pick axes and sieves. Performing as the fundamental backbone of the internet and hosting all of the data that gets uploaded, shared and stored they do however get relatively little interest or commentary versus the ‘sexier’ user-side technologies. In fact, for many of us it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Until of course, something goes wrong…

Are we right to pay such little attention to the very industry that powers our digital economy? Well of course we’d say no. And here’s why:

·When you search for information, purchase from a retailer or send out your latest social media update it is of course data centres making that happen. The last Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales figures topped ?3 billion in the UK alone and are increasing substantially year on year - those numbers are bigger than the entire economy of many countries meaning the pressure for a reliable data centre infrastructure is greater than ever.

·The Big Data explosion has created mind blowing statistics: doubling of the world’s information every year and a half, and forecasts of 40 zettabytes of data generated by 2020 (that’s the equivalent of 625 billion 64GB iPads. There are currently only 7.4 billion people on earth). And where does that data sit? Data centres of course.

·But of course this growing dependence means an ever increasing dangerous consequence of downtime. US figures place the average cost of downtime at $747,357 or $8.851 per minute. If all 242 colocation data centres in the UK went out twice a year total losses could be in excess of $360m - or enough to buy everyone in Birmingham a 64 GB iPad (should they not already have one contributing to the stats above).

So, datacentres are important and in the UK, recent events have made them even more so. According to a recent survey, more than 1/3 of organisations in the UK will be more inclined to store their data in UK-based data centres after Brexit. Expected tougher regulations and data privacy rules in the EU may affect data housed outside of the UK’s borders leading many IT owners to actively question where their data is stored.

It’s therefore safe to say that as long as there is a continued proliferation of smart phones, tablets, apps and social media, and while the politicians continue to slug it out over data sovereignty, the future looks bright for UK data centres. We look forward to sharing that future with you.

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