Key Takeaways:

  • Businesses can use alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC) power for data centers
  • Amperes, volts, and watts are among the most common metrics used to measure data center efficiency
  • Having the right cooling system in place can help a business prevent servers and other IT equipment from overheating, as well as avoid equipment damage that can lead to an outage 
  • Partnering with a commercial electrical services provider like Universal Electrical Services enables a business to take appropriate steps to optimize its data center’s performance

How does a data center work exactly? Here’s a closer look.

A clear understanding of data center energy basics is a must-have. Because if you can keep an eye on your data center’s performance, you’re equipped to identify problems in their early stages. You can then take measures to prevent outages that negatively affect your business, employees, and customers.

Data center energy terminology

You know your data center needs electricity to run. Beyond that, you have no idea what’s required to keep it running at peak levels. Here are five terms that can have far-flung effects on your ability to maximize your data center’s performance.

1. AC power

Alternating current (AC) is the traditional form of power that comes from outlets. It moves in waves and can change direction as needed.

Data centers often receive AC power from a utility provider or municipal electrical grid. An automatic transfer switch (ATS) receives utility power; the switch ensures continuous power delivery. Then, utility power travels to a switchgear, consisting of electrical disconnect switches, fuses, or circuit breakers that control and protect electrical equipment.

The switchgear can activate transformers, which verify that AC power is the proper voltage and current type. Power from transformers next moves to the main distribution board (MDB) that transfers and distributes low-voltage electricity to various data center endpoints. Among these endpoints: an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system.

A UPS system is critical in terms of keeping a data center fully operational. The system can validate that AC power can be “cleaned” to minimize the risk of power surges and other electrical issues that otherwise affect IT equipment. It can also deliver emergency power if the primary electricity source fails.

2. DC power

Direct current (DC) is a type of power that involves using a current that travels in one direction. It offers greater reliability than AC power because it provides consistent and constant voltage.

Businesses can use DC as an alternative power source for their data centers. For instance, companies can leverage solar panels, wind energy, and other sustainable energy sources for DC power. They can then convert this power from DC to AC to use in data centers and other commercial facilities. 

3. Amperes

Amps refer to the electric current that travels from power lines to a device. Most devices have ratings that define the amps they use or can support. So, a wall outlet rated for 15 amps can handle any devices rated below this figure. If a device with a rating that exceeds 15 amps is connected to the outlet, the electrical circuit connected to it will be overloaded. The result is a short circuit that can potentially cause a fire.

Workstations, servers, and other data center devices require a specific amount of amps to run properly. Therefore, it’s important to know the amps necessary for these devices to keep your data center running as expected.

4. Volts

Volts push amps through a specific path. For instance, a server may have an electric plug with a rating for 120 volts, while a AA battery may run at 1.5 volts. Ultimately, higher voltage means better electrical efficiency.

When designing a data center, it helps to consider voltage. Most IT equipment is designed to operate at 100V to 250V. Choosing the highest voltage available can help you optimize your data center’s efficiency. Plus, opting for a high voltage can be more economical and require less wiring than selecting a low voltage.

5. Watts

A watt is a measurement of the rate that energy flows. It can be calculated by multiplying amps by volts.

Kilowatt (kW) and megawatt (mW) measurements are commonly used in data centers. A kW may be utilized to determine how much power electrical devices need. Meanwhile, a mW (the equivalent of 1,000 kWs) may be used in data centers where thousands of servers and related IT hardware are required.

Knowing how energy is measured can help you monitor your data center’s performance over time, allowing you to gather data and identify performance trends. This will help to uncover ways to keep the data center running efficiently 24/7.

In addition to measuring data center energy performance, it pays to know the core components of a data center. This can help you design your data center in a way that limits the risk of downtime.

Key data center components 

Data center components support email and file sharing, customer relationship management (CRM), and other business applications and activities. As such, a clear understanding of data center components is key to keep your business fully operational.

If you know which components are required and how they work, you can deploy them correctly when you build or update your data center. Plus, you can perform ongoing maintenance to protect the performance and integrity of these components, reducing the risk of downtime. 

Here are four key components you’ll find in a typical data center:

1. Servers

Data center servers deliver processing, memory, local storage, and network connectivity. They run constantly and can produce a lot of heat. 

2. Cooling system

A cooling system can be used to keep servers and other data center equipment at a set temperature. That way, the system can prevent equipment from overheating.

3. Inverter

You can use a data center inverter to store DC power and convert it to AC power. So if an AC power source stops working, your inverter makes it easy to immediately restore power.

4. Security

Alarms, locks, and other physical security measures must be taken to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing data center equipment.

Effective data center design requires hard work and patience, even if you know which data center components you need. Fortunately, help is available to ensure you can design a data center that suits your company’s needs. 

Want to get the best results from your data center? Partner with a data center energy expert

By partnering with a data center energy expert, you can install a high-performing data center to enhance your facility. You can also work with this expert to explore ways to keep your data center electricity usage and costs as low as possible. 

UES is a commercial electrical contractor with extensive data center energy experience. We can help you build, renovate, or relocate your data center and avoid downtime. To learn more about our data center electrical services, please contact us today.