How 9/11 Changed Data Centers

The 2001 terrorist attacks quickly shed light on the need for stronger physical and technical security.

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Data Centers have always been secure, tightly controlled facilities, but the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, brought about changes that pushed both physical and IT security to significantly higher levels.

The 9/11 attacks, which came on the heels of the Internet boom in the late 1990s, were a wake-up call for many CIOs who hadn't contemplated the possibility that their company's IT operations could be destroyed in an instant, without warning.

Losses of technology and intellectual property on "such a large scale" were previously considered unlikely, said Keith Payne, IT security officer at Javitch, Block & Rathbone. "Many companies maintained their systems under the idea that they could reconstruct [them] with only minor interruption to the enterprise," he said.

Today, data centers are far more likely to have multiple points of security, including physical barriers such as crash-resistant fences and high-tech defenses like biometric identification systems, experts say.

It's also less likely today that backup and recovery data centers will be built near primary IT operations, and it's more likely that new facilities will be built outside of urban areas.

"Data center designers have always been mindful of security concerns," said Tad Davies, an executive vice president at Bick Group, an IT services provider. "What 9/11 caused us to do is to think [more broadly] and on a massive scale."

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