As the clock ticks down to the end of the year, it is probably fair to say that 2013 has been one of the most eventful in terms of how data centers and the security of information are perceived in the minds of the general public.

These now essential elements of a modern tech-savvy society have certainly found themselves in the headlines on numerous occasions in the last 12 months, thanks mainly to the work of a certain Mr. Snowden and his former employers at the NSA. And while not all the recent media attention has focused on the positive side of data storage and access control, it is always worthwhile considering what it was that captured the national interest over a calendar year.

Speculate to accumulate
In terms of creating intrigue out of absolutely nothing, it would be hard to beat the Google barge. Two mysterious floating structures appeared on opposite sides of the country, with the Web soon awash with speculation as to what they could be.

Most people looked at them and thought “mobile data center,” a scenario that would have been extremely interesting bearing in mind the fact that the company spent a record $1.6 billion on these facilities in the second quarter of 2013. According to Data Center Knowledge, however, the truth is far less exciting – both barges are apparently intended to be interactive learning centers, although Google has failed to confirm what will actually be taught on these oceanic classrooms.

For the other high-profile players in the tech and data storage/collection industry, building more data centers was at the top of the list. Microsoft spent $1 billion on a campus in southern Virginia, while Facebook invested almost $300 million on a huge project in Iowa. Both of these companies also showed their dedication to environmental responsibility at the same time, with renewable energy seen as the primary source for power for 2014 and beyond.

There were also a number of smaller projects that caught the public imagination in 2013. Sears, for example, announced that it would convert some of its shuttered locations into data centers, with the company eager to capitalize on the trend for colocation hosting and external IT infrastructure. There was also a demonstrated need for modular facilities, with a Swedish company creating a data center near Stockholm that was, according to the news source, comparable to a hideout for a Bond villain.

Mainstream access control
Data security may have been top of the list for the private sector in 2013, but the federal government made sure that the public sector was also making progress towards larger facilities. The NSA built an $860 million data center in Fort Meade, Maryland, although the ongoing revelations about its surveillance activities ensured that 2013 would be remembered not for its commitment to storing data, but more as to how it obtained it in the first place.

In fact, the actions of the NSA actually provided a wakeup call in terms of access control, mainly because most people seemed blissfully unaware that personal information could be obtained so easily. The documents leaked to The Guardian newspaper may have altered the U.S. government’s relationship with not only its citizens but also a series of tech behemoths, but they actually demonstrated the value of information itself, and how important it is to know who is accessing data and in what capacity.

And finally, it would be churlish not to finish this brief review of 2013, without mentioning Apple. Thanks to the company that Jobs built, biometrics has become a talking point among security-conscious mobile device users, with the anticipation being that its inclusion of a fingerprint scanner in a best-selling smartphone will actually encourage biometric security adoption in other industry sectors