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Balancing Data Centre Risks and Costs in the Pursuit of Sustainable Development

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Data centres are essential for the modern digital world, providing the infrastructure for storing, processing, and transmitting vast amounts of data. But this comes with a cost. Given the surge in demand for data consumption brought about by cloud computing, e-commerce, and the digital economy, their operation raises significant sustainability concerns.

At this point in time, data centres are in an urgency to accommodate smarter and more intelligent buildings and industries, while also acknowledging the way lives have been drastically digitalised. “A sustainable, efficient, adaptive, and resilient data centre can become a reality only if there is connected infrastructure,” says Pankaj Paliwal, Head -Product and Marketing, Fuji Electric.

Data centre modernisation has now enabled us to prioritise sustainability in an attempt to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact. They focus on hardware efficiency, renewable energy, improved cooling, and eco-friendly management. This shift is evident in hardware, energy, cooling, and management practices.

Data security is of utmost importance in the context of data centres and their operations. The effectiveness of technology implementation during the development stage is closely tied to how well data access and security are maintained in the data centre’s operation.

As we discuss data centre operations, the pivotal role of data security becomes evident in shaping the seamless integration of technology throughout the development process. This encompasses not only data access but also the meticulous management of data security.

There has been a noticeable shift towards embracing sustainable IT security practices, with all stakeholders recognising their significance. The dominance of cloud computing is evident, and how businesses navigate and manage their IT infrastructure plays a pivotal role in scripting their future success. Being said that, ensuring power backup becomes indispensable to guarantee the availability and effective functioning of the infrastructure.

Environmental and cybersecurity sustainability can occasionally coexist, particularly when it comes to the technologies we select. “Think about collaborating with suppliers who uphold social, environmental, and governance goals,” adds Paliwal. Examples of these suppliers are cloud providers who use renewable energy to power their data centres or businesses that properly dispose of servers, laptops, and other equipment after it reaches the end of its useful life.

To explore the intersection of technology, risk management, and sustainability to pave the way for a responsible and forward-thinking data-driven landscape, Trishneet Arora, Founder, TAC Security pointed out some innovative strategies that harmonise these elements, ensuring a resilient and eco-friendly future for data centres:

– Invest in energy-efficient technologies and practices to reduce operational costs and minimise environmental impact. Implementation of advanced cooling systems, optimisation of server utilisation, and utilisation of renewable energy sources all contribute to sustainability.

– Consider migrating some workloads to cloud platforms. Cloud providers often operate more efficient data centres, allowing you to leverage their infrastructure and reduce your environmental footprint, leading to cost savings through pay-as-you-go models.

– Maximise server efficiency through virtualisation. Consolidating multiple applications on a single server reduces hardware requirements, lowering costs and energy consumption while improving resource utilisation.

– Transition to renewable energy sources for powering data centres. This not only aligns with sustainability goals but can also provide long-term cost benefits as renewable technologies become more competitive.

– Implement a comprehensive lifecycle management strategy for IT equipment. Proper disposal and recycling of outdated hardware contribute to environmental sustainability, while efficient procurement practices help control costs.

– Regularly assess potential risks, including cybersecurity threats and natural disasters. Implement robust security measures and disaster recovery plans to safeguard data while avoiding unexpected costs associated with downtime.

– Stay informed about evolving environmental regulations and compliance standards. Adhering to these guidelines not only mitigates legal risks but also fosters a commitment to sustainability.

– Conduct thorough capacity planning to anticipate future data centre needs. Scaling infrastructure in alignment with business growth ensures optimal resource utilisation, preventing unnecessary costs and reducing environmental impact.

– Leverage remote management technologies to monitor and control data centre operations. This not only enhances operational efficiency but also reduces the need for on-site staffing, contributing to cost savings and sustainability.

– Train data centre staff on sustainable practices and energy-efficient technologies. Creating a culture of environmental responsibility can lead to improved operational practices, cost savings, and positive contributions to corporate social responsibility.

“Companies can [also] include practices such as comprehensive encryption protocols for data protection, strong encryption algorithms for data in transit and at rest, secure authentication processes and advanced threat detection and response systems through real-time monitoring and intrusion detection,” mentions Subodh Kumar, CTO, Magicbricks.

The upfront costs of green technologies with the long-term benefits of reduced operational expenses and improved sustainability can be balanced by a strategic approach. “It is recommended by conducting in-depth cost-benefit analyses to gauge expected savings and environmental effects, securing financing for initial expenses, and capitalising on incentives or subsidies,” adds Kumar.

The advantages of embracing a green economy are manifold and robust. Primarily, it contributes to environmental improvements by mitigating climate change, preserving ecosystems, and protecting species. Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources allows us to curtail our ecological footprint and reduce carbon emissions, thereby enhancing the overall health of the planet for future generations.

From an economic perspective, the shift to a green economy yields several benefits. It stimulates creativity and encourages the development of environmentally sustainable methods and technologies, consequently creating new employment opportunities. Industries devoted to green practices, such as waste management, eco-friendly construction, and renewable energy, not only support sustainable economic growth but also generate long-term employment prospects.

“A shift to a green economy helps firms save money and use resources more efficiently. Lower operating costs can result from using energy-efficient technologies, implementing sustainable supply chain strategies, and maximising resource utilisation. Businesses can save a significant amount of money and become more competitive by reducing waste, improving energy use, and adopting the circular economy concepts,” says Paliwal.

“The synergy between risk management, cost-effectiveness, and sustainable development is paramount in shaping the future of data centres. As organisations navigate the dynamic landscape of technology, striking a balance becomes not only a necessity but a strategic imperative,” shares Arora.

However, to adopt sustainable practices while addressing environmental risks, there are some regulatory frameworks and policies that have been in place to encourage data centres.

In order to sustain the growth of data centres and facilitate the effective expansion of data infrastructure in India, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) introduced the draft Data Centre Policy in 2020. Additionally, several states have implemented their own data centre policies to attract investments, recognising the immense growth potential within the sector.

Various other policies are in place, including ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance Measures), Compliance and the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023. The government has also accorded infrastructure status to data centres, underscoring their critical role in the nation’s development.

Presently, the majority of data centres in India adhere to global standards, such as TIA-942, and have received certifications from  institutions like the Uptime Institute. This signifies that India possesses the requisite tools and policies to emerge as a global data centre hub.

These regulatory measures collectively aim to promote a more sustainable approach to data centre operations, fostering a balance between technological innovation and environmental responsibility.

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