When you visit a website, content is sent over the internet to your browser from a web server: a computer that stores the website data. Although any computer can act as a web server, to remain operational it must be managed under regulated conditions. This is costly, and while some of the world’s major online corporations support their own server rooms, most websites and companies take advantage of the convenient web hosting hospitality of a data centre. A business may have a dedicated server, or multiple users may share one.
These state-of-the-art facilities power tens of thousands of servers, each capable of hosting hundreds of sites. And because data centres hold sensitive information and are relied upon by businesses, they have strict security regulations and environmental controls to ensure the security of the data by staying operational 24 hours a day.
For an idea of just how much information passes through a data centre, one of the world’s largest web hosting companies, 1&1, currently manages a third of all the home pages in Germany and over half the country’s email inboxes. With all this sensitive data knocking about, data centres go to extreme lengths to avoid system failure. Failsafe emergency power supplies kick in so that even if the main grid suffers a power outage, service is uninterrupted.
First to the rescue in the event of a power cut are four huge battery blocks. These are each capable of supporting the servers for 17 minutes, after which a fifth reserve battery block comes into action. If power still isn’t returned after that time, five large 16-cylinder diesel generators on the roof of the centre kick into action and supply power to the site for as long as diesel fuel is available. During a power cut, the Karlsruhe 1&1 facility is the only light in the city.