Understanding Data Centres with AJS

Part I – Data. It’s a major trend – still.

In fact, and according to Darrow

“the future of legal technology is data”

The rise of data and machine learning is unprecedented. It’s all over the commercial and legal space, regardless of what industry you work in. 

But law firms are particularly special where data is concerned. They manage huge amounts of data, and they need to do so in an organised, efficient, easily accessible (but always protected) manner. In fact, that’s crucial. Dealing with vast amounts of information, managing many documents, and analysing huge scopes of data requires a mechanism that makes legal operations easier. Not harder. 

One of the main concerns with data is the protection of it – 

1.         Under the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 – POPIA will be mandatory for most organizations within South Africa. Companies must therefore ensure that their business practices and the way they store data and how they interact with clients adheres to the guidelines as set out in POPIA. Companies should also ensure that any data collected by them complies with POPIA.  

2.         And further afield, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – is by its own admission – the toughest privacy and security law in the world, and imposes obligations on organizations around the world, when targeting or collecting data related to people in the EU. The GDPR will levy harsh fines against those who violate its privacy and security standards, with penalties reaching into the tens of millions of euros. Compliance with its vast number of new requirements for organizations around the world is crucial for any business conducting affairs within the EU or law firms advising such businesses. 

3.         The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of written standards, developed by major card brands (like VISA and Mastercard) and maintained by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC).PCI SSC is a global forum that brings together payments industry stakeholders to develop and drive adoption of data security standards and resources for safe payments worldwide(PCI Security Standards). The PCI DSS contain technical requirements which protect and secure payment card data during processing, handling, storage, and transmission. All businesses that handle payment card data must follow these requirements and be PCI compliant. This helps ensure that data is protected avoiding costly data breaches” (Magix). 

But there is another issue with data, and that’s having data that’s unorganised and unstructured. If data is unstructured, it becomes very difficult to analyse for quality management purposes (at a minimum). Also having unstructured data means that a business cannot “optimise its performance, perform more efficiently, maximise profit, or make more strategically-guided decisions” (legalfutures). 

So, in order to make the most out of data, organisations need to invest in refining and preparing their data repositories. 

One of the ways this can be achieved is by how the data is stored and managed.

Data Centres

What are they?

According to TechTarget, a data centre is a – 

“facility composed of networked computers, storage systems and computing infrastructure that organizations use to assemble, process, store and disseminate large amounts of data. A business typically relies heavily on the applications, services and data contained within a data centre, making it a critical asset for everyday operations”.

And they have evolved over the years. Modern data centres are very different to how they were just a short time ago. From privately-owned, carefully controlled on-premises solutions that housed a single company’s traditional IT infrastructure, to remote facilities or networks of facilities owned by cloud service providers for the shared use of multiple companies and multiple clientele (IBM).

A data centre – simply put – is a physical facility that companies use to house their critical applications and data. Further to this, the data centre communicates across multiple sites, both on-premises and in the cloud. Even the public cloud is a collection of data centres. When applications are hosted in the cloud, they are using data centre resources from the cloud provider.

Different types of data centres

According to IBM, there are 4 types of data centres – 

There are different types of data centre facilities, and a single company may use more than one type, depending on workloads and business needs.

1.         Enterprise (on-premises) data centres – as you may have guessed, with this data centre model, all IT infrastructure and data is hosted on the premises. Why this type of data centre model would be chosen?  The control. Here companies feel that they can control their own information security. You see, with this type of structure, companies are responsible for all the deployment, monitoring, and management tasks. Being able to manage how they comply with laws and regulations is also a positive tick for this type of structure.   

2.         Public cloud data centres – as you may be aware, with cloud data centres (you can read our articles on the Cloud here, here, here and here) IT infrastructure resources are shared with multiple customers all through an Internet connection. And this can be accessed while on the go too. Why would a company choose cloud service providers? Well, typically, cloud service providers maintain smaller, edge data centres located closer to cloud customers (and cloud customers’ customers). For real-time, data-intensive workloads such big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and content delivery applications, edge data centres can help minimize latency, improving overall application performance and customer experience. 

3.         Managed data centres – this data centre is for those companies that find themselves sort of stuck in the middle. A company will generally choose this route if they are not too comfortable using shared resources of a public cloud data centre but also don’t have the space, staff, or expertise to either deploy or manage some or all of their IT infrastructure on their own premises. In a managed data centre, the client company leases dedicated servers, storage and networking hardware from the data centre provider, and the data centre provider handles the administration, monitoring, and management for the client company. 

4.         A colocation data centre – with this type of structure it’s a sort of go-between. Typically, the client owns all the infrastructure, and leases a dedicated space to host it within the facility. The client would also usually have sole access to the hardware and full responsibility for managing it. While this is ideal for privacy and security, it’s often impractical particularly during outages or emergencies. 

What are the benefits of having a data centre?

Besides what is listed above, data centres – according to TechTarget – enable a business to –

  • “protect systems and private data;
  • centralise both data processing between employees, contractors and vendors;
  • apply information security controls to systems and data; 
  • realise economies of scale by consolidating sensitive systems in one place”, and
  • provide physical security and relief from loadshedding.

When it comes down to it, a data centre is the central support for your business. It supports almost all computation, securely stores data, whilst also operating the network and business applications. Where computerised businesses are concerned (which almost all businesses are), the data centre is the business.

Sources used and to whom we owe thanks: TechTarget; Cisco; IBM; DarrowLegalfutures and Magix).

To find out how to incorporate a new tool, like a data centre, into your existing accounting and practice management suite, or how to get started with legal tech,  feel free to get in touch with AJS – we have the right combination of systems, resources and business partnerships to assist you with incorporating supportive legal technology into your practice. Effortlessly. 

AJS is always here to help you, wherever and whenever possible!

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