Watch Demo×

See NinjaOne in action!

By submitting this form, I accept NinjaOne's privacy policy.

Learn How to Build a Data Center in 5 Steps

Build a data center blog banner

Data centers are the backbone of modern business operations, providing the necessary infrastructure for data storage, management, and processing. These facilities play a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth functioning of IT and communication systems, facilitating cloud computing, e-commerce, data analysis, and much more. 

Their importance has grown exponentially with the digital transformation of businesses, highlighting the need for reliable, efficient, and scalable data management solutions. Constructing a data center (or DC) involves a comprehensive approach, starting from the initial planning and design phase to the final implementation and operational stage. 

This guide outlines the essential steps on how to build a data center, aiming to equip IT professionals, data center managers, and businesses with the knowledge to create a facility that effectively meets their specific needs and supports their operations efficiently.

Step 1: Assess your data center needs

Defining the purpose and scope

The foundation of a successful data center project lies in clearly defining its purpose and scope. This includes understanding the core functions the data center will serve, such as hosting websites, supporting cloud storage, or managing enterprise data. Identifying these objectives early on is absolutely crucial, as all subsequent planning and design decisions devolve from form effectively following function.

Plan ahead: Identifying requirements

  • Current and future data storage needs: The IT sector is witnessing a significant surge in data volumes, prompting manufacturers to unveil hard drives currently ranging from 22 TB consumer-grade drives and 30 TB data center-ready units to 50-plus TB units expected in 2026 – with bigger models to come – while also discussing the advent of Petabyte-scale SSD storage tailored for the next generation of data centers. Given this rapid evolution, strategic foresight in planning is essential.
  • Processing power and network bandwidth: The growth of cloud services, big data analytics, and machine learning models demands ever-increasing processing power and network bandwidth. Modern data centers now require high-performance computing (HPC) capabilities and ultra-fast network infrastructures to handle the voluminous data and complex computations. As technologies like 5G IoT and various AI applications become more pervasive, data centers must adapt to support ever-higher data transmission rates and volumes at ever-lower latency. Planning for expandable and upgradable network infrastructure is essential to accommodate these burgeoning demands. At the intersection of processing power also lies edge computing, which has proved a highly successful strategy for load management at large scale in such real-world deployments as Azure Cloud.
  • Growth projections and scalability options: Anticipating future growth and ensuring scalability is crucial for long-term data center viability. This involves not just scaling up physical infrastructure but also leveraging cloud-based services for flexibility and cost efficiency. Scalability planning encompasses understanding trends in technology adoption, data volume growth, and application requirements. Implementing modular design principles can provide the agility needed to scale operations seamlessly, allowing for incremental expansions in processing power, storage capacity, and network capabilities as demand grows.
  • Geographical location of clientele: The geographical distribution of a data center’s clientele significantly impacts its design and operational strategies. Data sovereignty laws may dictate where data must be stored and processed, influencing site selection. Proximity to users also affects performance; closer data centers can reduce latency, improving user experience for time-sensitive applications. Additionally, understanding regional risks, such as natural disasters, and market dynamics, such as energy costs and availability, is vital for strategic planning and ensuring reliable service delivery to the targeted user base.

Properly evaluating both present and anticipated future needs is crucial for designing a data center that can grow with your business. This foresight prevents costly redesigns or expansions down the line. MSPs, for instance, that primarily operate from rented space in third-party data centers, often find their moving costs higher than expected, both financially and reputationally.

Power and cooling needs analysis

The selection and deployment of hardware dictate the power and cooling requirements of a data center. Efficient power usage and effective cooling systems are vital for operational integrity and sustainability. Calculating these needs involves understanding the power supply, cooling loads, and the potential for energy recovery and reuse. In the current landscape of an increasingly environmentally conscious IT industry and the legislatures governing it, many data center-friendly locations offer additional incentives for the use of renewable technologies, such as the US’ Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) or Germany’s Energy Efficiency Act (EnEfG). Creative data center placement could potentially partly offset or even fully externalize some of these needs.


Creating a detailed budget is a critical step, encompassing:

  • Capital expenditures (CapEx) for infrastructure, equipment, and building costs.
  • Operational expenditures (OpEx) including energy, maintenance, and staffing.
  • Incorporating a contingency plan for unexpected expenses ensures financial preparedness throughout the project.

Step 2: Designing the data center infrastructure

Selecting a location

Choosing the right location is influenced by factors such as climate, which affects cooling costs, geographical stability to avoid natural disaster risks, and proximity to network backbones for connectivity.

Creating a floor plan

An efficient floor plan:

  • Maximizes space utilization: Strategically plan the layout to allocate space for current infrastructure while reserving areas for future technology upgrades, ensuring the data center can evolve without wasting resources.
  • Facilitates hardware installation and maintenance: Design pathways and spaces that allow for easy access to all hardware components, enabling efficient installation, upgrades, and maintenance activities without impacting adjacent operations.
  • Supports future expansion: Incorporate modular design elements and flexible infrastructure solutions that can be easily adapted or expanded, allowing the data center to scale up operations or capacity in response to future demands.
  • Is designed with accessibility in mind: Ensure that the layout includes sufficient clearance for both personnel and equipment movement, with thoughtful placement of critical systems to enhance operational efficiency and safety. Co-locating or sub-hosting rack space each also comes with its own host of security and access issues – make sure you have considered all the angles, both literal and figurative.

Power distribution and backup

Ensuring uninterrupted power involves:

  • Robust power distribution networks: While not all regions have a choice of electricity providers, one happy byproduct of the current trend toward renewable power source diversity is the de facto increase in power system resilience.
  • Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems: Some of the biggest power projects being built right now are essentially industrial-scale UPS systems. With the economies of scale enabled by the advent of the giga-scale battery manufacturing plants required to fulfill our needs, data center-scale UPS systems are becoming both increasingly efficient and affordable.
  • Backup generators for emergency situations: While this could feel like a backup to a backup to a backup at this point, it is vital not to overlook this aspect. Even in the US, emergency fuel supply deliveries by water to certain DCs help to maintain service uptime, providing vital communications services to governmental and civil emergency efforts as well as victims during natural disasters. A data center isn’t just for this fiscal year – if you’re building a DC and you’re not planning for “five nines of uptime forever,” you’re doing it wrong.

Cooling and HVAC systems

Designing effective cooling and HVAC systems goes beyond merely keeping hardware within safe operating temperatures – it is a crucial factor in achieving a high level of energy efficiency within a data center. By utilizing advanced cooling methodologies, such as liquid cooling, aisle containment, or environmentally integrated solutions, designers can significantly reduce the energy consumption associated with maintaining optimal conditions. This not only lowers operational costs but also contributes to the data center’s sustainability goals by decreasing its overall carbon footprint. Effective cooling design involves a detailed analysis of the data center’s layout, heat load distribution, and climatic conditions, ensuring that cooling resources are deployed in the most efficient manner possible.

Security and access control

Implementing comprehensive security measures, including physical barriers, surveillance systems, and biometric access controls, safeguards the data center against unauthorized access and potential breaches. By integrating advanced security technologies such as AI-powered surveillance and real-time intrusion detection systems, data centers enhance their defense against sophisticated cyber-physical threats, ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of stored information.

Sustainable design principles

Incorporating energy-efficient technologies and green practices, such as renewable energy sources and efficient cooling mechanisms, minimizes the environmental impact of data center operations. The adoption of smart energy management systems and the use of natural resources for cooling, like geothermal or outside air, further enhance the sustainability of data center operations, significantly reducing energy consumption without compromising performance.

Step 3: Procuring equipment and infrastructure

Evaluating vendors and suppliers

Selecting vendors and suppliers involves assessing their reliability, product quality, support services, and projected long-term sustainability. It is also crucial that your service providers display insight into (and alignment with) your project’s technical and budgetary requirements. Properly evaluating vendors and suppliers not only ensures a match with current needs – it secures a partnership that can evolve with future technological advancements and market demands. Choosing the right vendor(s) can significantly streamline the rest of these processes. This proactive approach also fosters a resilient supply chain.

Selecting servers, networking, and racks

Choosing the right mix of servers, networking equipment, and rack solutions is crucial for meeting performance and scalability requirements. Factors such as processing power, storage capacity, and energy efficiency guide these decisions. When selecting these kinds of equipment, it’s essential to consider the interoperability of these systems to ensure seamless integration and optimal performance across your IT infrastructure.

Storage solutions and backup systems

Ensuring data integrity and availability requires reliable storage solutions and robust backup systems. Considerations include data redundancy, recovery capabilities, and storage scalability. In terms of storage solutions and backup systems, prioritizing systems that offer advanced encryption and security features can further protect data from unauthorized access and cyber threats – air-gapped and offline backup storage have never been more relevant.

Power supply and cooling equipment

Acquiring the right power supply and cooling equipment is vital for operational stability. This includes efficient UPS systems, precision cooling units, and environmentally friendly refrigerants. For power supply and cooling equipment, opting for solutions that offer smart, adaptive controls can significantly enhance energy efficiency, reducing operational costs while maintaining optimal environmental conditions.

Step 4: Installation and configuration

  1. Setting up racks and cabinets: Proper installation of racks and cabinets involves considering weight distribution, ease of access, and future scalability. Organizing these components efficiently lays the groundwork for a well-managed data center.
  2. Installing hardware: The installation process for servers, switches, and other hardware must be meticulously planned to ensure seamless integration into the data center infrastructure. This phase also includes comprehensive testing to verify functionality and performance.
  3. Cable management: Effective cable management enhances airflow, simplifies maintenance, and improves overall safety. Strategies include using cable trays, racks, and labeling for easy identification.
  4. Configuring devices: Configuring networking and storage devices for optimal performance involves setting up IP addresses, storage protocols, and data pathways. Ensuring redundancy in these configurations enhances reliability and data availability.
  5. Testing equipment: Before going live, all equipment must undergo rigorous testing to confirm its operational readiness. This includes load testing, performance benchmarking, and security vulnerability assessments.

Step 5: Network and connectivity

  1. Establishing internal network infrastructure: Configuring a robust internal network infrastructure is key to efficient data center operations. This involves setting up switches, routers, and firewalls to manage data flow and protect against intrusions. Quite separately from the next point, ideally you would also have failsafe out-of-band internal communications in the event of natural disasters or cyberattacks.
  2. Implementing redundant networking: Redundancy is critical for ensuring high availability and reliability. Strategies include redundant network paths, failover systems, and load balancing to distribute traffic evenly across network resources. High levels of scheduled preventive maintenance are advisable here.
  3. External network connections: Connecting the data center to external networks and the internet requires careful planning to ensure sufficient bandwidth, low latency, and secure connections. This includes negotiations with ISPs and compliance with industry standards for data transmission. Industrial parks and other enclaves often have a preferred ISP, but don’t be afraid to shop around.
  4. Security and firewall configurations: Protecting the data center from cyber threats involves configuring firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and implementing strict access controls. Regular security audits, penetration tests, and updates are necessary to address emerging vulnerabilities.

Architecting the data ecosystems of the future

Building a data center is a complex, multifaceted project that demands careful planning, strategic decision-making, and meticulous execution. Each step, from assessing needs to installing and configuring infrastructure, contributes to creating a robust, efficient, and scalable data center.

The success of a data center hinges on thorough planning, precision in execution, and proactive management. These elements ensure that the data center can support current operations while being adaptable to future technological advancements and business growth. 

As data centers become increasingly complex, integrating comprehensive IT management solutions like NinjaOne’s Enterprise IT Management can significantly enhance operational efficiency, security, and scalability. NinjaOne offers a suite of tools designed to streamline data center operations, offering IT professionals the resources needed to manage modern data infrastructures effectively. Businesses are encouraged to explore how NinjaOne can support their data center projects and broader IT management goals, ensuring they stay competitive in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Next Steps

Building an efficient and effective IT team requires a centralized solution that acts as your core service deliver tool. NinjaOne enables IT teams to monitor, manage, secure, and support all their devices, wherever they are, without the need for complex on-premises infrastructure.

Learn more about Ninja Endpoint Management, check out a live tour, or start your free trial of the NinjaOne platform.

You might also like

Ready to become an IT Ninja?

Learn how NinjaOne can help you simplify IT operations.

NinjaOne Terms & Conditions

By clicking the “I Accept” button below, you indicate your acceptance of the following legal terms as well as our Terms of Use:

  • Ownership Rights: NinjaOne owns and will continue to own all right, title, and interest in and to the script (including the copyright). NinjaOne is giving you a limited license to use the script in accordance with these legal terms.
  • Use Limitation: You may only use the script for your legitimate personal or internal business purposes, and you may not share the script with another party.
  • Republication Prohibition: Under no circumstances are you permitted to re-publish the script in any script library belonging to or under the control of any other software provider.
  • Warranty Disclaimer: The script is provided “as is” and “as available”, without warranty of any kind. NinjaOne makes no promise or guarantee that the script will be free from defects or that it will meet your specific needs or expectations.
  • Assumption of Risk: Your use of the script is at your own risk. You acknowledge that there are certain inherent risks in using the script, and you understand and assume each of those risks.
  • Waiver and Release: You will not hold NinjaOne responsible for any adverse or unintended consequences resulting from your use of the script, and you waive any legal or equitable rights or remedies you may have against NinjaOne relating to your use of the script.
  • EULA: If you are a NinjaOne customer, your use of the script is subject to the End User License Agreement applicable to you (EULA).