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Volta Data Centres Blog

Fake or Fiction? - by Phil Alsop, Editor, DCS Europe Published

Posted by Volta Newsroom on 18-Dec-2017 10:12:20

Listening to Radio 4 the other day and there was (yet another) programme dedicated to discussing the stumbling blocks along the way to Brexit, with the usual selection of journalists and politicians offering their own views on the present situation, some of (the many) issues still to be resolved, and the likely end results. Ordinarily, this prospect of the blind leading the blind would have had me changing the radio station in double quick time. However, before I could do this, one of the BBC journalists explained that, while leaving the EU would mean that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) no longer applied to the UK, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was a completely separate entity, not part of the EU and, therefore, would still be of relevance to the UK post-Brexit.

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Now, regardless of whether one voted for or against Brexit, I suspect that, post-vote, all of us imagined that a significant benefit of leaving the EU would be leaving behind the ‘crazy’ decisions of the ECHR – the decision that we couldn’t deport Abu Qatada to Jordan, or that all UK prisoners have the right to vote, for example.

So, when I heard the journalist on the radio I was brought up short. My subsequent straw poll amongst friends and family has revealed that 0% of the population (maybe not quite that allowing for my rather unscientific, small sample) know that the ECHR has nothing to do with the EU! So, how many folks voting for Brexit were, in part at least, motivated by a desire to escape the ECHR, erroneously as it turns out?

The reason I chose the above example reference Brexit – as opposed to the number of hospitals we could build with the money we would save when out of the EU, or the suggestion that the economy would fall off a cliff during and after Brexit – is because it’s a fact! Amid the Brexit propaganda wars, facts are often hard to come by.

While the stakes might not be quite so high in the enterprise world (although losing your business is a fairly catastrophic outcome), we find a similar situation. Vendors, analysts, journalists, resellers, consultants are all pushing out views, opinions and marketing-speak, as well as the occasional fact (!), concerning the latest technology or industry trend. Moving to the Cloud will save you millions…moving out of the Cloud will save you millions; Consolidate and centralise all your IT resources…a distributed IT infrastructure (central, regional and local, or edge) is the only way forward; solid state disks are the perfect storage media for all your data storage requirements…SSDs are far too expensive and over-engineered for many storage applications; and, right now, ignore GDPR and your company will be fined out of existence…GDPR changes very little.

What do you believe?

GDPR is a great example of the problems facing end users as they seek to improve and optimise their data centre and IT infrastructures, to ensure that the data generated by any one company can be turned into useful information. 25 May 2017 is the date the GDPR comes into effect – that’s a fact. Care to read the actual proposed legislation, and there are a few other ‘facts’, although many of these will be the subject of some high profile legal cases to establish just what the GDPR does and doesn’t expect from individuals and businesses alike. And those of who are familiar with the niceties of the Data Protection Act will be equally familiar with all the breaches that occur – but how many DPA ‘miscreants’ ever get taken to task for their offences?

IT security is another area of significant confusion and obfuscation. While there is quite rightly a major focus on the issue of hacking and data breaches from the outside world, I’m fairly confident that the main IT security threat to any particular organisation remains its employees. Whether through carelessness, ignorance or acting maliciously, the majority of IT security incidents are caused by your own staff! I say this, not quoting ‘official’ sources, but based on my memory of various survey results I’ve been sent over the years, all of which state that employees are the number one security risk. But, of course, all these ‘independent’ surveys are supplied by vendors or analysts (paid by one or more vendor) who have a vested interest in making us all believe this ‘fact’ to be true.

Whether or not the Russians really did try and influence the last US presidential election (or actually succeeded in doing so!), there’s no doubting that fake news, propaganda, half-truths and other such sleights of print and speech are at an all-time high. As a data centre professional, your task is to try and peer through the FUD to work out what claims are fact and which ones are fiction. Common sense, trusted advisors, and fact checking (probably not via Google or Wikipedia!) all have their role to play, along with the well-tried practices of tire-kicking and trials.

The starting place for all of this? A healthy dose of cynicism. When someone launches a brand new data centre facility and, empty as it is, says that it has a PUE of 1.00001, however much you might want to believe it, you just know it can’t be true. Even the claim that it’s ‘designed to a PUE of 1.00001’, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. After all, I might construct a paper aeroplane ‘designed’ to reach the moon, but who in their right mind will trust it to go into space?

Many claims and ‘facts’ are rather less easy to question, but at the time of year when we are all happy to believe that a red and white dressed, bearded, jovial old man is dropping presents down chimneys throughout the world, transported via a reindeer-driven, flying sleigh, maybe it’s time to look behind the headlines and the angles, to try and understand what’s really going on.

Topics: Volta News

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