The exterior of Google's data center in Moncks Corner, S.C., is deliberately nondescript.
Down on Googles Server Farm
Google each year custom-crafts thousands of servers running a barebones version of the Linux operating system. Some have said Google owns and operates more than 1 million servers, powering search, Google Maps, Google apps and Google Checkout, among other Web services. Google said this customized approach provides a computing environment that is far less prone to security vulnerabilities.
Google data centers, such as the one in Moncks Corner, are secured with guards, gates and checkpoints. If you're thinking it's the sort of security you'd envision for a government building, you'd be correct, only Google's facilities lie in remote parts of the world. Security guards watch the grounds 24/7.
The guards can't see it all, so multiple cameras survey the grounds, again 24/7.
Once inside, access to the data center is vetted via special badges that are designed to be hard to forge.
Moncks Corner and many other Google data centers leverage biometric security controls such as cameras that scan employees' eyes before granting them access.
Hard Drive Failures
As for the data security itself, Google Apps customer data is stored in multiple locations. File names are random and are not readable by humans to protect data privacy. Failing hard drives are brought here for reformatting. Data on a failed hard drive is overwritten and checked to ensure the data has been destroyed.
Dead Hard Drives
Hard drives that have reached the end of their lives are literally crushed with this pneumatic steel piston.
Hard Drive Shredder
From the crusher, dead hard drives go to the shredder for further breakdown. Once shredded, the plastic and metal go to recycling centers.
Of course, the data on failed hard drives hasn't just disappeared. Data on all hard drives are constantly backed up on tapes like these.
Servers and other gear are protected against fire. In the event of a fire or other disaster, data in a Google data center is sent to servers in another Google data center. That's called system redundancy.
Google has backup generators in the event of a power failure.