Data centre physical security

Physical security for data centres amidst AI boom

The idea that data is the oil of the digital era, and is the world’s most valuable resource, has been around for quite some time. Now, new analysis focusing on the growth of AI suggests that our data requirements will surge even higher.

Construction analyst Glenigan discusses findings in which 88% of respondents surveyed said that “demand for data capacity for artificial intelligence/machine learning projects is increasing rapidly,” adding “AI and machine learning platforms require an exponential rise in computing capacity.” (1)

To accommodate this growth, in 2024 the construction industry is poised to benefit from the emergence of new data centre projects throughout the country, presenting a promising avenue for new opportunities. One of these projects, the proposed London Data Freeport, would be the world’s third biggest, if operating today. (2)

As we rely on big data to do increasingly more for us, and the need for data centres rises to support this, we will also have greater requirements to ensure that these sites are secure.

Balancing cyber with physical security

Unfortunately, cybercrime continues to proliferate. Each year, thousands of breaches occur, and hundreds of millions of people are affected. IBM estimates that the average cost of a breach is $4.45 million. (3) Consequently, cyber security is a key area of focus for those managing data centres. However, in a rush to secure networks, servers and endpoint devices, many organisations have overlooked risks in the physical infrastructure necessary to operate data centres securely.

Physical entry to data centres should be strictly controlled, with procedures to monitor and manage pedestrian access inside and within sites. In such environments, entrance control has two key aims:

  1. Prevent unauthorised people from entering the facility beyond reception or other restricted areas.
  2. If an intruder does enter, quickly detect and identify the suspect so the correct response can be deployed.


Fastlane turnstiles and Door Detective products satisfy both of these aims.

Our Fastlane range seamlessly integrates with all known access control systems, ensuring strict enforcement of building entry protocols and consistent visitor identification. Whether utilising authorised cards or verifying identities through biometrics, the advanced technology within Fastlane turnstiles allows entry based on rapid calculations, processing thousands per second.

These intelligent turnstiles are equipped to detect various security threats such as luggage being pulled, tailgating, and unauthorised pedestrian passages, among other potential risks. Capable of processing up to 60 users per minute, these entrance systems act as a robust layer of security.

In the event of an unauthorised access attempt or irregular traffic flow, an alarm is triggered to alert security personnel. When integrated with a CCTV system, the breach and the suspected intruder are visually captured. Swift review of these images enables the identification of individuals involved which may reveal a familiar face, perhaps a forgetful staff member who forgot their key card and followed a colleague through. However, it could also be a potential intruder with criminal intent, requiring the company to deploy the appropriate response before any harm is done.

Potential threats within your team

Tailgating, the unauthorised act of following someone through an entry system, poses a recognised security threat. The fault lies with the follower, even if there is no deception or harm intended. The person being trailed may even be oblivious to the act.

It is crucial to detect and address such events promptly. Further information on tailgating and collusion can be found here.

The potential danger of collusion among staff members should not be underestimated either. A malicious individual within the team can inflict substantial damage on a data centre facility without the need for advanced technical skills, unlike a typical hacker.

Regular training for all staff is essential to identify potential cases of malicious intent. Additionally, adherence to physical security policies is vital to prevent unwitting collusion with an intruder who may claim to have ‘forgotten their card.’

An extra layer of detection

A bank of security turnstiles provide a strong visual deterrent and will prevent unknown individuals from entering a facility beyond reception. They won’t, however, stop staff, guests or temporary contractors from accessing sensitive areas beyond the main entrance. No matter how rigorous your background checks, can you ever be sure that your employees won’t pose a threat?

A number of leading social media providers have installed our Door Detective products at their sites across EMEA to protect the more sensitive areas of their data centres. The innovative technology provides an extra layer of security and detection by monitoring the throughput of internal access-controlled areas to enforce the ‘one person, one door access’ rule.

Multiple infrared beams monitor movement in both directions each time someone presents their credentials. Alarms sound when an access violation is identified so that staff can respond to it. If integrated with Fastlane FastCount, real-time building population data shows how many people are currently in areas of the building.

You can integrate Door Detective with the access control systems and readers of your choice – facial recognition technology, for example. If needed, authorised users can be required to pass multiple verification checks before being granted access.

As the surge in artificial intelligence and machine learning escalates, so too is the demand for data centres. The emphasis on cyber security should not overshadow the importance of physical security in operating data centres securely. Integrating advanced technologies, such as Fastlane turnstiles and Door Detective products, provides a comprehensive approach to addressing physical threats.

Are you underestimating physical risks to your data? Get in touch on 020 8890 5550 or  to learn how entrance control products can help protect your most valuable resource.