data-centers

Electromagnetic Interference in Data Centers: Risks Involved and Its Impact on Information Security

By: Manas Ganguly,Founder, Brightsandz CleanTech

World population is moving towards innovation backed by technology. All technology giants and start up companies are leading the way with investments and deployments in major technologies such as Blockchain, Automation, AI, IoT among others. The advent of such technologies are changing the entire way of communicating and retrieving information from wireless personal and portable handheld terminals.

The emerging trend of such technological advancements is giving rise to an increased data consumption and internet dependency. Artificial Intelligence, IoT and other connected devices require high data usage and networks due to their regular transmission of small amount of data.

Gigantic data networks are supported by a mind-buzzing infrastructure of servers – computer rooms, server rooms and data centers. India is one of the key support systems to this equation and is graduating to become the data centre capital of the world. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, the current Indian data center market is valued at $2.2 billion which is expected to become $4.5 billion by 2018.

It is also believed that every technological device or trend that comes with pros is always known to have some cons attached to it. Similarly, the server rooms or data centers have a significant impact on the environment and human body. Data centres use between 1.1% to 1.5% of global electricity at an estimate of 28.6 billion watts (2014 estimate). Its infrastructure is expected to grow at 20-30% annually over next few years. As per estimates, one Google search is equivalent to turning on a 60W light bulb for 17 seconds.  

Data Centres require very high power and current flow which results in higher Electromagnetic field. EMF radiation is also known to be as one of the major factors affecting the performance of a data center.  

A data center plays an essential role in the working of organisations by facilitating them with remote storage, processing and distribution of large amount of data. The interference by Electromagnetic fields is extremely harmful for IT equipments and data center environment. The Electromagnetic field interference (EMI) disturbs the normal functioning of an electronic device.

Higher level of EMI results in more disastrous effects on IT equipments such as shaky monitor screens and unexplained data errors. The problems arising from EMI are not usually solved by standard troubleshooting. Problems like unplanned downtime can affect the entire user company with loss of productivity and monetary losses. Anyone working in the company from an entry level employee to the CEO can be affected badly due to unavailability of business information.

EMI at low frequency caused by power sources has harmful effects on the hardware. It corrupts server data or erases the entire hard disk. In many cases, EMI causes major threats to information security. Many IT equipments see malicious attacks on their immunity due to high power EMI Malfunctions and system crash are also two major threats to information security.

EMI has become a serious concern while setting up a data centre. It has a direct impact on employees’ productivity due to inaccessibility to basic e-mails and internet services.  

Moreover, excessive EMI also affects data transmission process due to full network utilisation. When data is transmitted into packets, each packet contains source, information and destination. When errors occur due to high EMI, these data packets lose their sequence and some information is dropped in between the process. High level of EMI can also corrupt the entire data packet which is being sent due to the induction of voltages on network cables and devices. Therefore, EMI hinders the ability of remote receivers to successfully detect data packets.

Apart from degraded transmission quality, EMI also leads to higher network traffic due to retransmission of data packets and network congestion.

In order to reduce such hazardous effects of EMI on data centres, many tech start-up companies are coming up with protection devices and accessories. Shielding products have also become one of the very effective methods to avoid the impact of EMI on data centres. It is now recommended to consider the ways of shielding while designing a data centre. This not only helps in keeping your data secure but also reduces the productivity loss of the personnel exposed to Electromagnetic radiation.

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