Security: Bleak Prospects for Corporate Data Center

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 04-26-2006

Are you paying enough attention to your company's data center? Probably not, according to AFCOM, the Orange, Calif.-based association for data management professionals. AFCOM recently released a set of predictions resulting from a membership study it completed in March. The facts are startling.

For starters, while 83 percent of respondents say their company has a risk management plan in place, only 1.3 percent of those plans specifically address security breaches, and only 2.7 percent address viruses—the greatest cause of corporate financial losses, according to the 2005 Computer Crime and Security Survey sponsored by the Computer Security Institute and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Furthermore, 40 percent of respondents admit that a business disruption would cost their company anywhere from $250,000 to $5 million for each hour of downtime. The figures, says AFCOM president Jill Eckhaus, back up the association's claim that within the next five years, 25 percent of all data centers will experience a security disruption severe enough to affect the entire business. "There will be security breaches in the future," she says, "yet companies aren't focusing on it."

Adding to that issue is the fact that data centers are on the cusp of a severe skills shortage. AFCOM forecasts that by 2015 the talent pool for data center professionals will shrink by a whopping 45 percent. "This is part of the enterprise skills shortage that all companies are facing," Eckhaus says. Already, 38 percent of respondents say they have open positions in their data centers, and 47 percent admit that finding qualified employees will become increasingly difficult. "Many data professionals will start retiring in five years," says Eckhaus, "and for the first time, there is no one to replace them."

To lure people back into the field, Eckhaus suggests working from the inside out—launching internal training programs to bring current employees into the fold and prepare them for greater data management roles, while also actively recruiting outside the organization. "We need to change the perception of the data center and make young people understand that this is where everything happens. It's not just mainframes anymore—it's managing a company's entire data structure."

Qualified staff isn't the only shortage the data center is facing. AFCOM predicts that over the next five years, power failures and limits on power availability will halt data center operations at more than 90 percent of all companies. The association estimates that data center power needs are increasing by an average of 8 percent a year, rising to 20 percent for the largest data facilities. In fact, 80 percent of AFCOM's survey respondents say their data centers have experienced a power failure in the past five years. It's an issue that cannot be ignored, says Eckhaus. "In the long term, companies need to sit down with their vendors and talk about making systems more energy efficient." Consolidating IT hardware can also help.

The bottom line, says Eckhaus: "If you aren't prepared for these issues, you won't be able to run your facility efficiently. Data center professionals need to learn how to speak the language of business, and communicate their needs to upper management."