Case Studies

Data centre security: role of perimeter fencing

by Josh Brace

Peter Jackson, Managing Director of Jacksons Fencing, offers insights into the indispensable role of perimeter fencing in safeguarding data centres and securing our digital futures.

In our rapidly evolving digital era, data centres have emerged as pivotal components of modern society [1], serving as the backbone of our digital infrastructure. With projections indicating a staggering value of £24 billion [2] for the data centre construction market by 2027, it’s evident that these facilities are at the forefront of technological advancement. Industry giants, like Google, are spearheading massive data centre projects, such as the upcoming £800 million endeavour in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, slated to commence construction by the summer of 2024.

Challenges in urban environments

However, amidst this exponential growth, securing data centres poses unique challenges, especially in urban environments. Operators often face constraints in selecting suitable locations, leading them to explore areas near existing infrastructure, including residential and industrial sites. This proximity to urban areas introduces complexities in security planning, necessitating a comprehensive approach to safeguard sensitive information and critical infrastructure.

Contrary to common belief, securing data centres extends beyond establishing an external perimeter. It often requires a multifaceted strategy that incorporates elements like access control, hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM), protection of vital infrastructure, and strategic placement of security devices. Achieving a delicate balance between security, acoustics, and aesthetics is crucial to avoid drawing unwanted attention to the site and increasing vulnerability.

Adhering to standards

Adhering to industry standards and guidance provided by accreditation bodies such as the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) and National Protective Security Authority (NPSA), and initiatives like Secured by Design (SBD) is essential for implementing effective physical security measures.

Regular maintenance and inspection of security infrastructure are imperative to proactively identify and address vulnerabilities, ensuring optimal performance and resilience against potential threats. Despite its importance, perimeter fence maintenance is often overlooked, with our research revealing that 63pc of UK companies neglect their assessment of physical security measures. Regular inspections are necessary, including monitoring both sides of the perimeter for attempted breaches and assessing the impact of foliage, weather, and topography changes on security integrity. Checking fixtures and fittings, identifying damage and corrosion, and clearing debris are essential steps to maintain security effectiveness.

Security solutions

Access control

Access control plays a critical role in data centre security by restricting unauthorised entry. Speed gates offer an efficient solution for controlling access, providing fast and secure entry for authorised personnel while maintaining strict security protocols. However, ensuring the reliability and effectiveness of access control equipment requires regular monitoring and maintenance to prevent security breaches.

Integration of technology

Modern perimeter fencing solutions integrate cutting-edge technology to enhance security measures. Motion sensors, CCTV surveillance, and intrusion detection systems seamlessly integrated into fencing infrastructure provide real-time monitoring and proactive threat detection capabilities. These advanced security systems bolster data centre defences, protecting them against evolving threats and ensuring uninterrupted data flow.

Urban hazards

Data security centres located in urban areas face a unique set of challenges due to their dense population, diverse infrastructure, and complex regulatory environments. Data centre operators must navigate these challenges while maintaining the highest standards of security to protect sensitive information and critical infrastructure.

Development limits

One of the primary challenges in urban environments is the limited availability of suitable land for data centre construction. As urban areas are already developed, finding large plots of land for building data centres can be challenging. This often leads operators to repurpose existing buildings or construct vertically integrated data centres to maximise space. However, repurposing existing structures can pose security risks, as they may not have been originally designed with security in mind.

Proximity to residential and commercial areas

Furthermore, the proximity of data centres to residential and commercial areas introduces additional security concerns. Data centre operators must balance the need for security with the need to minimise disruption to nearby residents and businesses. This requires careful planning and implementation of security measures that are effective yet unobtrusive. Perimeter fencing plays a crucial role in this regard, providing a physical barrier that deters unauthorised access without impeding the flow of people and vehicles in the surrounding area.

An aspect to consider in this delicate balance is acoustic fencing, which serves to mitigate noise pollution generated by data centre operations. As data centres often function around the clock, their operations can produce significant levels of noise. Acoustic fencing acts as a sound barrier, reducing noise emissions and preventing disturbances to nearby residents and businesses. By incorporating acoustic fencing into their perimeter security strategies, data centre operators can effectively address both security, privacy, and environmental concerns, ensuring harmonious coexistence with surrounding communities.

Given the role and significant growth in the data centre construction market, the importance of perimeter fencing in safeguarding data centre security cannot be overstated. A breach in security could have severe repercussions for public safety, the economy, and national security. Therefore, it’s imperative to recognise that a robust perimeter fencing serves as more than just a physical barrier – it provides peace of mind in an increasingly digital world.

Link:

[1] Data Centre Security Solutions | Jacksons Security Fencing (jacksons-security.co.uk)

[2] Data centre construction growth to continue in UK especially in London (glenigan.com)

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