March 05, 2010, 9:18 PM — The data center is receiving more public scrutiny than ever before, with IT managers facing a range of challenges from making systems run more efficiently to protecting computers from cyber terrorism, says AFCOM chief executive Jill Eckhaus
The 30-year-old organization for data center managers is holding its twice-yearly Data Center World show from March 7-11 in Nashville, Tenn., where IT folks will learn about the most pressing issues facing data centers today and share their own experiences.
Cyber terrorism is one of the topics Eckhaus is looking forward to examining further. AFCOM’s recent survey of more than 400 data center pros found that only one-third have included cyber terrorism in disaster recovery plans, only one-quarter have addressed cyber terrorism in policies and procedures manuals, and only one-fifth provide cyber terrorism employee training. These low numbers were recorded despite the fact that 61% of data center managers said they recognize cyber terrorism as a threat they need to address.
No data center manager is likely to ignore security, but AFCOM officials say they need to recognize that cyber terror poses a more serious threat than a typical hacker.
“A hacker might be a student just looking for a challenge,” Eckhaus says. “Cyber terrorists want to destroy the United States. That’s the difference.”
AFCOM will host two sessions on cyber terrorism during the conference. Unfortunately, in a bad economy companies that already have security plans “tend to say what we have is good enough,” Eckhaus says. “They’re really at the very beginning stages.”
Even beyond security, public scrutiny of data centers seems to be increasing, as the 24/7 business world expects computer systems that never fail or slow down. Eckhaus says this is both good and bad for data center managers, because the public is recognizing the important work they do, but also demanding more.
“This is a really unique time, because for the first time in history the data center is in the public eye,” Eckhaus says. “People are starting to understand how vital data centers are. We could not do business as usual without data centers.”
Corporate management is demanding that data centers run more efficiently, both to save money on power costs and to appear environmentally friendly in the public eye, Echuas notes. Going green is important, in part because providing enough power and cooling to data centers is becoming more difficult, she says. But the IT industry is “saturating” data center managers with the green buzzword, she says.