The world changed significantly within the past 18 months as the impacts of COVID-19 were felt by every sector around the world. Our reliance on connected devices has been rising for years, but the pandemic accelerated our dependency on digitization to an all-time high. While the average Canadian depended on these devices to work, learn and stay connected, businesses, government and critical infrastructure required greater connectivity to remain operational. 

As the world becomes increasingly digital, data centres must meet the demands of this evolution, while supporting efficient buildings and industries. According to Arizton Advisory & Intelligence, the global data centre market is expected to reach $174 billion USD by 2023 – and Canada is positioned as an attractive market for investment. Last year, Canada was named the best country in the world to build a data centre thanks to our large, reliable supply of renewable resources and cooler climate, which means less energy is required to keep data centres at an optimal temperature. As more companies seek to grow their data centre infrastructure, Canada can emerge as a leader in this space.

While the trend towards digitization presents several advantages, including greater connectivity and efficiency, it’s not without threats. Cybersecurity is one of the biggest concerns facing the data centre industry, and the sector has become increasingly prone to attacks due to vulnerabilities that emerged during the pandemic. Proactively reducing the likelihood of cybersecurity attacks is imperative in ensuring data centre continuity, especially during critical periods.  

With this explosive data centre growth, major technology players must consider how to meet demand, while ensuring a low-carbon, low-impact approach to their business. By keeping the below best practices in mind, organizations can ensure their data centres are equipped to accommodate rising marketplace demands, maintain defenses against cyber threats, and ensure a smooth transition into more digital and dynamic future. 

1. Lead with Sustainability at the Source 

Digital transformation will play a critical role in driving forward Canada’s economy recovery, and data centres are at the core of this evolution. But as demand grows, it’s imperative the data centre industry sets its sights on sustainability. 

A study conducted by the International Energy Agency found that although data usage has skyrocketed within the last 10 years, energy consumption from data centres has remained relatively flat. According to the Government of Canada, data centres only consume about one per cent of electricity use annually, which is on par with the global average. While this number may seem insignificant at the onset, in today’s climate emergency, maintaining the status quo isn’t enough.

Incorporating sustainability across operations provides several advantages, both from a cost-savings and environmental perspective. The data centre of the future will be required to accommodate a company’s complete upstream and downstream supply chain sustainability data footprint. In addition to looking at their own direct and indirect emissions, organizations must consider emissions generated across the supply chain by engaging with and evaluating suppliers who have already succeeded in reigning in their own emissions. 

To further maximize on their energy consumption, data centre managers should take advantage of existing energy management solutions like Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure™ IT Expert, which provides complete insight into a data centre’s energy consumption, from temperature to power utilization, to help promote greater sustainability and manage energy costs. 

As more organizations set net zero emission targets and make sustainability a top priority, it will be imperative to ensure the data centres they employ to process and store information are also implementing clear sustainability measures.

2. Focus on Boosting Efficiency Across Operations

With an increased focus on sustainability comes the need for data centres to ensure efficiency across operations. Every individual or organization that depends on connectivity, relies on high-speed responses. Data centre systems – from power and distribution to heating and cooling – must remain reliable and efficient to deliver fast user-response times, ensure operations run smoothly and keep customers happy.

While data centres contain hundreds, or even thousands of servers, small efficiencies can save operators millions of dollars, while simultaneously improving the user experience. By implementing devices with intelligent sensors, leading-edge technologies and remote monitoring capabilities, data centres can proactively keep up with current demand, while preparing for the future. These solutions will help drive efficiency, provide faster alerting and allow for more precise diagnostics, leading to fewer instances of downtime. 

3. Keep Flexibility at the Forefront of Future Planning   

As employers navigate hybrid working conditions and supply chains continue to face new challenges, preparing for future uncertainties and how to respond should be a top priority. In today’s changing environment, a new mentality for success has emerged: accelerate your ability to deliver goods and services with speed and precision.

While it’s impossible to predict what the next year has in store, implementing more flexible and resilient data centre designs will allow owners to pivot quickly and scale based on need. Bringing high-data volume workloads closer to the users through edge data centres is one way to address fluctuating market requirements. 

For example, Mackenzie Health – a healthcare provider serving Ontario’s York Region – installed Schneider Electric’s Prefabricated EcoStruxure™ Modular Data Centre to increase reliability across its hospital sites in 2020. The Prefabricated Modular Data Centre concept removed the cost, complexity and future expansion constraints of having to build and maintain a data centre within the hospital by placing it outside hospital walls. This approach provides the flexibility to change the data centre footprint and compute capabilities, thus ensuring continuous, quality patient care.

As edge data centres become increasingly popular, the need for speed and accuracy in these environments will require solutions that save space, adapt quickly and provide ease of remote programming and monitoring. 

4. Remain Resilient, Time & Time Again

Our reliance on IoT connected devices is higher than ever before. In addition to shifting to remote work, many Canadians relied on digital tools to access key services online during the pandemic. Critical infrastructure like hospitals have also become increasingly reliant on digitized systems to store patient records, run machinery, and support patient diagnosis. As dependency on these solutions increases, so does the expectation that data centres keep up.

Not only is downtime expensive, but it can have serious consequences. With downtime no longer an option, organizations need data centres that proactively identify potential points of failure. Today, powerful AI-based tools, including Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure™ Solution, collect data from various sensors on a regular basis and analyze this information to provide insight into potential issues and when they may occur. 

When selecting a data centre provider, it’s important to look at the programs, processes and tools they have in place to minimize these risks and support rapid reaction and recovery in the event of an unplanned event. This will ensure organizations are in a better position to control outcomes during times of crisis and uncertainty. 

Benefit from A Cybersecurity Envelope

With more individuals, businesses and government agencies connected to IoT devices, the pandemic has exasperated existing concerns surrounding cybersecurity. As employees shifted to remote work, organizations were forced to pivot their business and IT operations quickly. As a result, this opened opportunities for additional points of failure. To operate a truly successful data centre – and to achieve the greatest growth potential – a built-in safety net of advanced cybersecurity will be required across each of the above pillars.

By incorporating the four pillars outlined above – Sustainability, Efficiency, Flexibility and Resilience – and establishing strong cybersecurity measures, data centre managers can ensure their operations are ready to take on the demands of today, and tomorrow.