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Data centres: securing sovereignty in digital space

Data—big data—is what makes the world go round. But securing, governing and storing information is one of the biggest challenges facing government and business today.

31 March 2021
Michael Owens

Australia

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Over the past few years, RPS has been expanding our offer to provide more and more information and communications technology (ICT) systems, and spaces. Why? Because our clients understand that under-utilised data is a commercial opportunity untapped, and that under-protected information is a real and present threat.

While many people think of data as a high-value intangible—a mess of code floating around in the cloud—all of this information needs a physical home. And the location of that home, and who owns it, matters.

Here are some of the ways RPS is helping clients manage the interface between physical and digital assets, and carve out secure sovereign space in a world of zeros and ones.

Defining the data growth and protection strategy

Being an agile business means leveraging the benefits that cloud infrastructure and application services can bring. There are major commercial advantages to this when it is done well. But the more we integrate and take these services up, the more important it is to think strategically about safeguarding data.

Data centre development has gone from incremental to exponential growth in a very short time. In the last five years we have seen an explosion in the requirement for businesses and governments to access Australian-based secure data centres.

 

data centre server room

Within this context of growing need and rapid uptake, investing in a data growth and protection strategy is the fundamental underpinning requirement for any physical infrastructure. It needs to consider requirements at the enterprise level into the future.

A good strategy lays the foundation for ensuring infrastructure development is cost-effective and fit-for-purpose and that data sovereignty is maintained as needs and capacity change. More often than not, multiple projects are now relying on data centre space, and developing the strategy early helps ensure cohesive, integrated infrastructure, and removes inefficiencies.

Balancing cost and compliance

Maintaining compliance with local sovereignty and security requirements (without blowing the budget) is top of mind for businesses. It’s a question that we deal with here at RPS.

As a global company listed in the UK, housing our data and network services in a single market might have commercial benefits, but managing our information environments in accordance with government data sovereignty regulations is the cost of doing business.

Cheaper storage offshore is an option that many organisations have pursued, but understanding how data sovereignty legislation is applied both locally (where you operate) and wherever you plan to house your information is key.

Developing owned and managed assets

Increasingly, we are seeing governments and other large enterprises extricate their data from locations and digital infrastructure networks that they perceive to be vulnerable or opaque. This even applies to local data centres that are internationally-owned, or may be subject to future acquisition.

Who owns and manages the physical infrastructure of data centres is becoming central to the decision-making of security-minded businesses, and acceptability of leased data centres is reducing.

Instead of renting, organisations are creating data centres that they own and manage themselves. This allows them to enforce higher levels of physical access security, guarantee up-time continuity, and have more control over operational cost variables like utilities, service fees and asset depreciation.

Hyperscalers—the Amazons, Googles and Microsofts of the world—are leading this global trend, but it’s a philosophy we are helping other large enterprises apply, too. Here in Australia, federal, state and territory governments are prime candidates from several perspectives: the scale of need, strict sovereign data and security requirements, and vulnerability to cyber threats.

The appetite for investment is certainly there, with a main priority of the Australian Digital Transformation Agency’s Whole-of-Government Hosting Strategy to address ‘…risks to data sovereignty, data centre ownership and the supply chain.'

Thinking and planning ahead

Australia is still an ‘emerging’ market when it comes to data centres, and it pays to think about where a facility can be integrated within the broader context of our built and commercial environments. Data centres require not just space, but access to adequate power, water and supporting network infrastructure.

Each organisation’s requirements are different, with some choosing inner urban commercial spaces for their data centres, others leasing space in co-located facilities run by independent providers, and hyperscale operators developing at the industrial scale.

Thinking beyond individual projects or assets and considering data centres from a portfolio perspective is vital.

For example, how could your data centre impact your ability to achieve sustainability objectives? Does your investment strategy allow you to upscale or downsize if required? Is your focus on cyber security matched by the right amount of physical security? Are assets customised to your customer’s needs and expectations? 

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Smart, secure, sovereign data development

According to We Are Social and Hootsuite’s annual Digital 2021 Global Overview Report, ‘4.66 billion people around the world use the internet in January 2021…[and] global internet penetration now stands at 59.5 percent.’

As the demand for online data access, transmission and storage grows, the risks surrounding governments and businesses who don’t invest in sovereign data space will increase in turn. We’re proud to be supporting clients to address this challenge, and invest for a safe, secure, sovereign data future.