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Data centres power modern society. With 8,800 data centres globally, these facilities power everything from governments to small businesses.
One sector that has increasingly shifted to data centre managed services is the education sector. As universities continue to embrace and incorporate new technologies into their setups, data centres have become a central part of that shift.
In this guide, we will discuss how data centre managed services work and the benefits they provide for the higher education sector.

How do data centre managed services work with the education sector?

Universities often operate in-house data centres to manage their cyber assets. The problem is that most universities have built their data centres over time using an ad-hoc strategy. These facilities often contain critical IT assets, but are powered by antiquated hardware and software.
Achieving high-performance computing is often out of reach for most higher education facilities, limiting their capacity and compromising data security. As researchers and academics generate astounding amounts of data, switching to a managed data centre provides access to advances like:

Machine learning
Artificial intelligence
High-performance computer systems

With the data centre services market projected to increase to $105.6 billion globally by 2026, higher education facilities can tackle logistical, performance and budgetary concerns by outsourcing the challenges of running an on-premises data centre while accessing state-of-the-art infrastructure.

What is the importance of data centre management in universities?

IT spending on data centres has never been higher. By the end of 2023, projections reveal that $222 billion will be spent globally on these services. Universities often spend millions on maintaining and managing their data centres.
Unfortunately, this is something that cannot be avoided. As academics perform their research and utilise increasingly complex programs as an alternative to “wet labs,” management becomes more difficult.
So, what’s the importance of data centre management for higher education?
Security – In 2022, the number of cyberattacks rose by 38%. This is the most significant aspect of data centre management universities must consider, requiring constant software and hardware updates to patch vulnerabilities.
Maintenance – Maintaining systems, including power and cabling infrastructures, is crucial for overcoming the physical challenges of operating a data centre.
Disaster Management – Universities rely on their data centres as backups for their disaster recovery program. Failure in this area can cost years of hard work and valuable academic study.
These are only three aspects that are vital to universities operating data centres, and this is also why outsourcing these functions to a dedicated managed data centre makes sense. It can save thousands every year on management while also producing better results.

The challenges of data centre management for higher education

Higher education must deal with various challenges while managing on-site data centres. Unfortunately, these are the same challenges large-scale data centres face, meaning that there’s no way around them.
Some of the problems a higher education facility may encounter while managing a data centre include the following.

Maintaining Uptime

Availability and uptime are critical to a data centre that does its job. If you continue to rely on spreadsheets for managing server information, you know how much of an issue maintaining accurate and complete information is.

This is a particular problem when dealing with unplanned downtime requiring troubleshooting or mapping out the power chain.

Utilisation of Capacity

Space, power and cooling are the three factors that allow a data centre to function. Creating an efficient data centre often means working with severe limitations in these three areas.

With the help of managed data centre services, you can shift this burden to a dedicated facility.

Reducing Operating Expenses

Operating expenses are a constant headache for facilities running even small data centres. By design, these installations consume vast amounts of energy.

Moreover, universities must budget for upgrading software, getting the latest hardware, and replacing broken components. You may also need to employ a dedicated team to run it all.

With 25% of English universities reporting a budget deficit in 2018, controlling costs is a massive problem for higher education institutions.

Achieving Zero Days

A “Zero Day” means that your data centre was not attacked. While you cannot guarantee one of these days, you can ensure that your servers aren’t breached due to a cyberattack.

Most of your time managing your data centre will be spent obsessing over security, and with so many potential physical and virtual entry points, it typically necessitates employing a dedicated cybersecurity team.

The costs of failing to meet this challenge are immense. For example, the Blackbaud Hack of 2020 saw more than 20 universities and charities in the UK, U.S., and Canada fall victim to a data breach.

Complying with Governmental Regulations

Previously, data centres were largely built and managed based on commonly accepted best practices. However, as cyberattacks grow in number and prominence, governments worldwide have acted to enact legislation to regulate data centres.

Higher education institutions must also comply with these regulations while managing their data centres. Moreover, these regulations are constantly evolving, necessitating an in-depth knowledge of the latest developments within the sector.

What benefits do data centres provide for higher education?

Data centres are essential for how higher education facilities operate today. Whether opting for an in-house data centre or outsourcing to a managed data centre, the benefits are the same.

Some of the reasons why universities worldwide rely on data centres include the following:

Secure off-site servers that enhance your university’s security.
Higher uptime rates guarantee constant access to vital data.
Reduced costs of data storage.
Greater capacity to manage enormous amounts of data.
Fully scalable infrastructures to grow alongside your operations.

With students, tutors, academics and administrative staff generating more data than at any other point in history, data centres are the only way to store, process and disseminate this data.

In short, a data centre is a must-have for the higher education sector.

Which data centre approach works best for higher education?

Deciding how best to address the data centre issue means evaluating the pros and cons of each solution.

For most higher education institutions, the choice is between an on-site data centre or a managed service. In some cases, colocation facilities may also be on the table.

Every higher education institution differs, and each option has pros and cons. What works for your campus may not work for another.

In this section, we’ll discuss some of the most common approaches to data centres.

On-site data centres

Campuses often choose to utilise on-site data centres. While costly and complex to maintain, they offer several benefits unavailable via outsourced services.

Some of the advantages include:

Total control over your data centre.
Added in-house security.
Flexibility to grow your data centre as you please.
Long-term savings.

Even though on-site data centres offer higher upfront costs, they can be more cost-effective in the long term, especially compared to colocation facilities.

Managed data centre services

On the other side of the spectrum is the managed data centre. These facilities allow higher education facilities to purchase a package and have a dedicated company do everything for them.

This also includes renting the hardware and software that allows a data centre to operate in the first place. Unlike a colocation centre, you don’t need to supply hardware or software.

So, why do managed data centre services make sense?

Multiple locations to improve your backup plan.
Access to unrivalled expertise.
State-of-the-art hardware and software.
Simple scalability.
Save money on employees, infrastructure and running costs.

Everything can be managed via a customer-facing interface, and you can contact tech support if there are any problems.

Implementing an on-campus data centre requires expertise and experience. At Keysource, we can support your university in designing, building and maintaining a dedicated data centre that fits the needs of your campus.
The first hurdle is the design. Your data centre must be built to your needs ten years from now, meaning you need a space to accommodate potential growth. The issue also extends further than floor space. Your team must factor in cabling, ventilation and power issues.
Once a space has been established, you must manage how data is transmitted. This goes back to the cabling – how much data can travel over your connection?
Bandwidth must be high to guarantee a certain network speed. On the other hand, you have latency, which is data delay. High latency means a low-performing data centre.
Your data centre however, is vulnerable without the appropriate security measures, even with the proper infrastructure. Some of the primary problems to address include:

Compromised credentials
Cloud misconfiguration
Third-party software vulnerabilities
Physical security

Finally, there is the environmental side. Today’s data centres account for 1% of all global electricity, which is enormous. With so many universities committed to sustainability practices, how will you manage the green implications of your data centre?

Speak to our team today for tailored university data centre solutions

With the complexities of implementing and managing campus data centres, it’s essential that you get the support you need to make your plans a reality. At Keysource, we specialise in building sustainable data infrastructures for the education sector.

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