When it comes to data center operations, there are countless rules and guidelines, but one of the most important is the five-nines rule; cloud providers should be able to provide 99.999% uptime annually, or no more than about a 5.3 minutes without service each year. That’s an awfully high bar, but it’s also a totally necessary one. Any service that can’t minimize downtime puts clients at a greater risk of financial and data loss.
Luckily, there are a number of steps data centers can take to reduce downtime, even if they can’t yet hit five-nines.
The Issue Of Outages
Data center outages can occur for a variety of issues, from employee error to extreme weather events. The cause of the outage, however, is far less important than the severity of it, which can be measured using the Uptime Institute’s Outage Severity Rating (OSR) system. As described by Continuity Central, this system ranks a given outage from negligible – having little impact on operations, to severe, or mission critical – an outage that may cause data safety issues, compliance breaches, and customer data or financial losses.
Level 1 and 2 outages aren’t usually a big deal; clients may not even know they ever happened. Anything more severe than that, however, creates a continuity risk, as well as compromising client relationships, and data centers need to do everything possible to prevent such outages.
Developing A Continuity Plan
One of the simplest things that data centers can do to prevent or minimize the impact of outages is to develop a business continuity plan, which is a multifaceted plan addressing issues like file backup, communications, and recovery priorities. Clients need to be kept in the loop about the problem, and your business also needs a plan for contacting all the vital players, no matter when an issue arises.
Building For Better Performance
Another way that data centers can minimize downtime and protect client file is by ensuring that their center meets the highest performance criteria, particularly those set by the Uptime Institute. There aren’t many data centers that meet these criteria, however. According to NEXTDC.com, their center is the only one in Victoria, Australia with Uptime Institute Tier IV Design and Construct Certification. This allows the center to promise clients 100% uptime, exceeding the five-nines expectation and providing clients with the highest possible level of performance.
Sometimes data center interruptions stem from security issues, rather than from technical ones, which is why all continuity plans should account for potential security breaches. In fact, over the past few years, security breaches have been at least as much of a problem as extreme weather, and they’ve certainly been responsible for loss of consumer trust and increased anxiety around personal data safety.
Data centers need to offer clients comprehensive safety protections including video monitoring, access control systems, and ongoing risk assessment. File attacks are constantly evolving, with hackers taking data systems hostage, stealing sensitive information, and disrupting files without ever entering the facilities. Hackers can do more damage to a business in a few seconds (and without taking down your file system) than several minutes offline during a major weather event.
Operational issues, including occasional moments of downtime, are generally an accepted part of doing business, but there’s a difference between planned maintenance and disaster-driven losses. Clients demand – and deserve – more than spotty service from their file centers, so you need to carefully plan to provide it, no matter the obstacles.