ID checks, iris scanners and military-level security: inside the world of data centres

MigSolv, the nine-acre commercial data centre at Barnard Road. Alistair MacMillan, service desk oper

MigSolv, the nine-acre commercial data centre at Barnard Road. Alistair MacMillan, service desk operative, in the cold corridor where the customer's computer servers are housed. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Military-level security protects the sensitive information housed at Migsolv data centre near Norwich.

MigSolv, the nine-acre commercial data centre at Barnard Road. CEO Alex Rabbetts in the room that ho

MigSolv, the nine-acre commercial data centre at Barnard Road. CEO Alex Rabbetts in the room that houses the customer's computer servers. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

On entry, an ID check, induction and assurances that cameras are watching warn visitors before they pass through three sets of locked gates and into the centre.

That is followed by an iris scanner before entry into one of two bright white warehouses holding vast rows of servers in cabinets fitted with electronic locks.

This level of security, says Migsolv chief executive Alex Rabbetts, signals the severity of any potential data breach.

'If a business loses its electronic data the experts say 80% will never recover,' he said. 'It's a big responsibility. We want it to be as secure as we can possibly make it, because it's our clients' crown jewels we have in here.'

MigSolv, the nine-acre commercial data centre at Barnard Road. Alistair MacMillan, service desk oper

MigSolv, the nine-acre commercial data centre at Barnard Road. Alistair MacMillan, service desk operative uses the iris scanner to open the door to the customer's computer servers. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016


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Migsolv, the region's only commercial data centre, opened in 2011 after a £12m transformation of the site formerly owned by Aviva - then Norwich Union.

Located in nine acres of Bowthorpe Industrial Estate it holds servers belonging to businesses ranging from technology firms to financial advisers and public sector organisations.

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For clients, it means avoiding a separate data room taking up precious office space, and ensures their data is kept secure and in an air-controlled environment.

Mr Rabbetts said Norwich was a prime location for a data centre, with businesses from as far as Canada keeping servers at the site and accessing their information remotely.

MigSolv, the nine-acre commercial data centre at Barnard Road. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

MigSolv, the nine-acre commercial data centre at Barnard Road. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

'The reason we are here is because I believe East Anglia is poorly supported for by this type of facility,' he said. 'People have to go to London to store their data.'

And while the main body of the centre looks after clients' servers, in a caged-off corner sits the 'end of the internet', accessed through a separate door.

For while some may imagine the internet to be an intangible cloud floating in the ether, Migsolv provides a glimpse into its true form.

Cabinets holding servers for major telecoms companies such as BT, Virgin and Vodafone operate in two parts of the centre.

'People think of the internet as out there in the air but the reality is it has to go somewhere,' said Mr Rabbetts.

'We are at the dark edge of the world because no one knows about us but data is the foundation of the digital age. Without data centres the world would starve. We no longer keep paper records so we can't go backwards.'

The centre was funded by a high-net worth private investor, and turnover at the site is currently about £3.5m a year, said Mr Rabbetts. At capacity, it would hit £20m, he said.

Is your business innovating in your field? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

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