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MI5 head warns of serious risk of UK terrorist attack

Data centres form a critical part of our national infrastructure and accommodate the lifeblood of any large organisation.

 

Date: 10 Dec 2010

Serious consideration should be given to physical security and blast protection of any new or upgraded data centre – whether they are in a city centre or on a trading estate.

The construction of the shell (walls, ceilings, doors, etc) is a vital part of the design process. Windows are the most obviously vulnerable element in any building. However standard block and brick can also suffer much damage in a blast and are easily breached by use of a sledgehammer. Steel cladding on an industrial building can be cut open with simple battery driven power tools. In addition, most doors are also vulnerable to attack.

Hence end users, designers and specifiers need to be aware of what is available in the market place to protect these critical assets. A modular panel system that is designed for purpose, such as the Remtech ModuSec System, is a good place to start.

Basic requirements

1. Prefinished steel skins for wipe clean, maintenance free surfaces.
2. Fire protection for a minimum of 60 minutes – keeping the protected side below the critical temperature for hardware and media.
(Note that EN1047-2, the European standard for computer room construction, recommends a maximum rise of 50 degC during the test period. The traditional ‘fire rating’ criteria stipulates a 180 degC rise – well above critical temperatures for hardware. Hence stated fire ratings need to be looked at in detail.
3. Minimum U value (rate of heat transfer) to provide the best insulation for a stable environment. This will negate solar gain - allowing the most efficient design of cooling systems. ModuSec has half the U value of any other 60 min+ fire rated panel system.
4. Protection from water provided by steel skins plus tongue and groove joints with mechanical camlocks that pull adjacent panels tight together. Joints should also be silicon sealed. A solid non porous core will maintain its insulation, fire and strength characteristics – even if water penetrates a joint or service entry point in situations where external joint sealing is not possible (e.g. if against an existing structure or on top of a ceiling).

Security
A steel outer skin, solid foamed core and multipoint camlock system will provide a higher level of physical security than a plasterboard stud wall or even a brick/block wall and most non foamed panel systems from an opportunist or sledgehammer type attack.
For more critical sites, consideration must be given to a higher level of protection from a concerted forced attack or blast.
The ModuSec system for instance has options that have been independently tested by trained professional entry teams. In addition, the system has been independently blast tested to a recognised standard. Note that the standard and higher security panels can be utilized on different facades, if the location requires it, e.g. adjacent to a wall with windows.

Mike Lawrence, director of Remtech, reports that the majority of their UK contracts now include the Class 2 or Class 3 higher security options. Hence Remtech have built up enormous expertise in the construction of high security data centres and take a full part in the design process – advising clients, architects and mechanical and electrical contractors on many aspects of the build.

The company provides the design and manufacture of the panels and steel support systems if required. In addition, delivery and installation of the system is carried out by experienced in house teams, ensuring end to end single point responsibility and quality control with minimum lead and build times.

Remtech is a real British success story – with rapid growth even during the recession. They have built data centres throughout the UK but also have a healthy level of exports to The Netherlands, Scandinavia, Russia and Eastern Europe via dedicated representatives and trained construction teams.

With the current threat level rated as ‘severe’ and the criticality of data centres to our national infrastructure, serious thought should be given to providing the right levels of physical protection – in addition to other environmental considerations. The additional cost is normally relatively small as an overall percentage of total build cost and could be a small price to pay to ensure your security.

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Tags: Design & Facilities Management, Security

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