Heinlein Support, the company behind mailbox.org, has been operating their own technical infrastructure with dedicated servers for more than 25 years. As all devices and wiring are the company’s property, we are making sure that operations are entirely under our control and nobody else has access. With this in mind, we are confident in saying that the e-mails, files, and other sensitive data of all our customers, whether private or business, enjoy the best-possible security.
Our server racks are distributed across a number of professionally-equipped data centres in and around Berlin, Germany, where we rent our own spaces. To give you some insight into how operations run at this technical level, we accompanied Stefan Wagner, the administrator responsible for our server infrastructure, during a visit to one of our data centre locations.
The data centre
We are at a business park in the middle of Berlin. The building itself has multiple storeys, is purpose-built, and makes a rather unassuming impression. However, looking around us, we can see this is a high-security environment: Access requires a range of security checks, where those allowed to enter need to swipe exclusive biometrically-coded key cards and enter access codes to open the doors.
There is a strict time limit for passing through any of the doors. This is to make sure that nobody can easily follow an authorised person into the building. As a result, the admins get a fair bit of physical exercise sometimes, when hurrying along with 50lb of new hardware on their backs. All rooms, corridors, and stairways are secured with CCTV.
Not for the faint-hearted
On each building level there are huge halls where the servers are located. Before going in, Stefan grabs some hearing protection gear from a box by the door. He recommends we do the same as things can get noisy in there!
Upon entering the hall where the mailbox.org servers are located, we can feel a stream of warm air on our faces, and humming and rattling sounds left and right. One can hear the servers before actually seeing them – there are thousands of machines in this hall and each server cabinet is locked within an additional cross-barred case. All this stuff must weigh many tons, which explains why the floors and walls of this building are so sturdy and massive. We can see some of the server cabinets are not just sitting within a secure case like the others, but are locked behind yet another barrier and secured by an alarm system.
All these machines make a lot of noise – more than 80 decibels as we are standing directly next to them. Now we are glad to have taken the hearing protection with us earlier. At least the climatic conditions in this place are relatively pleasant: all dry and warm. Time for a picnic? No – eating and drinking is not allowed, in order to prevent accidents and protect the sensitive hardware.
The individual server cabinets are neatly lined up and the cooling system regulates the air flow in the hall to make sure all systems are properly ventilated and there are no build-ups of heat anywhere. Looking at the ceiling, there are huge amounts of wiring to be seen – we learn that these are for power lines and network connections.
Our colleague Stefan Wagner visits all the data centre locations at least twice a week. Cordula Velten, who has a communications role at mailbox.org, has joined Stefan on one of his trips today and uses the opportunity to ask him a number of questions about his work, which we hope our customers might find interesting: