The illusion of data center uptime

Most of the mid-size companies that visit our Midwest colocation facility already have a data center. It’s the one in their home office. These companies have built a data center inside the four walls to take advantage of real estate that is already leased, along with cheap, fast network access for all of the employees in the building.

Redundant generators protect against data center downtime

Some companies value data center uptime more than others. These companies are in markets where their computer downtime can cost them sales, profits and clients. These companies often have in-house data centers with more sophisticated equipment to keep the computer systems up and running in the event of a power outage. These companies invest tens of thousands of capital dollars in battery backup, power conditioning and generators to protect from downtime. A few even spend thousands more in capital dollars to makes the air conditioning more reliable.

But do all these data center capital costs improve uptime? The answer is yes, but in many cases, not enough. Many of us mistakenly look at the last five years of actual downtime to judge whether our data center is highly reliable. This is a mistake. Your data center may not be reliable, even though you’ve been lucky for the last five years.

What does it take to keep your downtime to less that an hour per year? It takes data center with two of everything that is critical for operation: power, cooling, and communications systems. This two of everything model is also called N+N data center redundancy. Without it, companies should expect hours or days of downtime per year.

Uptime Institute uses a structured system to classify data centers. Rated-4 data centers are built with N+N redundancy (two of everything) to maximize reliability. These data centers are designed to deliver 99.995% uptime, which is 28 minutes of downtime per year or less. But building a Rated-4 data center is expensive. A second power feed into a building can cost a quarter of a million dollars. CFOs routinely reject the idea a second generator because of the exorbitant capital costs. Without N+N data center redundancy, the uptime numbers just don’t add up.

What’s the answer to high uptime and manageable costs? Many companies use affordable wholesale colocation facilities. Some of these outsource data centers offer 99.995% uptime in exchange for monthly operating expenses rather than exorbitant capital costs. Many IT staffers use colocation to reduce their workload, get out of the power and cooling business, and focusing their data center management on their critical computer systems.

Colocation is not for every company. Applications, users, geography and other factors play into whether colocation or cloud computing might improve the reliability of your data center. The bottom line is the cost of downtime to your company. If you need 99.995% uptime, don’t fall prey to the illusion of data center uptime. Consider wholesale colocation to solve the uptime problem and manage data center costs.

Alex Carroll

Alex Carroll

Managing Member at Lifeline Data Centers
Alex, co-owner, is responsible for all real estate, construction and mission critical facilities: hardened buildings, power systems, cooling systems, fire suppression, and environmentals. Alex also manages relationships with the telecommunications providers and has an extensive background in IT infrastructure support, database administration and software design and development. Alex architected Lifeline’s proprietary GRCA system and is hands-on every day in the data center.