The physical security of a data center environment is a critical component in maintaining the trust of clients who rely on these facilities to protect sensitive information. With personal data being processed at record levels and the growth of cloud computing fueling our new normal, it’s more important than ever to ensure a cohesive approach to securing access to customer PII (Personally Identifiable Information).

Data center providers are entrusted with protecting their assets and customers from a business, moral, and legal standpoint. Numerous compliance mandates exist to guide how security should be approached in protecting data center facilities across various industries. This blog will dive into key compliance frameworks and guidelines, illustrating their importance in safeguarding customer data in the data center industry.

Key Compliance Frameworks for Data Centers

PCI DSS – Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) governs the physical security and access control measures required for areas processing sensitive cardholder payment data. This includes data centers and customer contact centers where customer payment information is stored, handled, or processed.

Section 9 of PCI DSS emphasizes strong access control, requiring that access to the cardholder data environment is restricted through multi-factor authentication. This involves a combination of something you know (e.g., password), something you have (e.g., access card), and something you are (e.g., biometrics).

HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

HIPAA governs the physical security and access to personally identifiable health information. Section 164.310 requires unique user identification for anyone accessing sensitive health information in both physical and digital environments. This section also references the necessity of a coherent physical security plan to prevent unauthorized access to equipment used for storing or processing these records.

NERC CIP – North American Electric Reliability Corporation Critical Infrastructure Protection

NERC CIP standards are designed to protect critical infrastructure such as stations or substations and their primary control centers. If these facilities are rendered inoperable or damaged, a physical attack could result in widespread instability or cascading failures within an interconnection.

NERC-CIP-006-6 requires several physical security management procedures, including access control and auditing for security perimeters. It also mandates two authentication methods: something you know (e.g., password), something you have (e.g., access card), or something you are (e.g., biometrics).

SSAE 18 SOC2 – Service Organization Control 2

SSAE 18 SOC2 governs companies that provide outsourced services affecting another company’s financial statements. The SOC 2 report focuses on security and privacy. Section .05 of SSAE 18 underscores the importance of preventing unauthorized access to both digital and physical systems.

The Financial Implications of Data Breaches

According to the 2020 Cost of Data Breach Report by IBM, the global average total cost of a data breach is $3.86 million. In the United States, this cost is significantly higher, averaging $8.64 million. These figures highlight the critical need for robust physical security measures to protect customer data.

Data center providers are ultimately stewards of their customers, trusted with some of the most important functions of their day-to-day operations. Therefore, it’s essential to view physical security not as a checkbox but as a dynamic approach that evolves to counter emerging threats.

Enhancing Physical Security in Data Centers

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Strong access control is a cornerstone of many compliance frameworks. Implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) ensures that only authorized personnel can access sensitive areas and data. MFA combines something you know (password), something you have (access card), and something you are (biometrics) to provide a robust security solution.

Regular Audits and Monitoring

Conduct regular audits and monitoring of security measures to ensure compliance with relevant standards. Use advanced technologies such as AI-powered identity verification services to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of these processes.

Upgrading Security Infrastructure

As new threats emerge, it’s crucial to upgrade your security infrastructure to stay ahead. Consider investing in advanced physical security solutions, such as biometric access controls, narcotic safes, and asset tracking systems, to enhance the overall security of your data center.

Achieving Comprehensive Data Center Security and Compliance

Achieving compliance in the data center industry is a multifaceted challenge that requires a comprehensive approach to physical security. By adhering to key compliance frameworks such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, NERC CIP, and SSAE 18 SOC2, data center providers can protect their customers’ data effectively.

Remember, the goal is not just to meet compliance requirements but to build a secure environment that evolves with emerging threats. By implementing multi-factor authentication, conducting regular audits, training employees, and upgrading security infrastructure, you can ensure the safety and integrity of your data center.


  1. IBM Security – Cost of a Data Breach Report
  2. PCI Security Standards Council – Prioritized Approach for PCI DSS v3.2
  3. NERC CIP Standards
  4. AICPA Trust Services Criteria
  5. – HIPAA Security Rule