Few scenarios have the ability to strike terror through the hearts of modern data center operators like the threat of downtime. Case in point: in a survey of 584 U.S. data center professionals, 84 percent revealed that they would rather walk barefoot over hot coals than experience an outage in their facility, according to a 2013 Ponemon Institute report. Ouch!
The fear is certainly justified; in the same study, a whopping 91 percent of respondents acknowledged their facility had experienced an unplanned outage within the past 24 months. And considering that the average cost of a single data center outage is estimated at $730,000, operators’ inclination toward hot coals becomes understandable.
Thankfully, today’s data center professionals have an extremely effective option to thwart downtime — and it doesn’t even involve removing their shoes! One of the most reliable and cost-effective measures you can take to ensure continuous availability is the installation of a premium uninterruptible power system (UPS). It’s a trend underscored by a recent in-depth market analysis that predicts the data center UPS market in the U.S. will grow at a CAGR of 4.01% between 2016 and 2020.
Assessing the dangers
When you consider the host of potentially devastating dangers that lurk within data centers —and the significant implications of data loss — it is surprising that some operators still place power protection quite low on their priority list. But the truth is, no company can afford to leave IT assets vulnerable to power issues. Here’s why:
- Utility power isn’t clean. By law, electrical power can vary widely enough to cause extensive damage to valuable IT equipment and irreplaceable data. Power sags, surges, harmonics and other anomalies are unavoidable, making a robust power protection solution absolutely essential.
- Even brief outages can be detrimental. Losing power for as little as 1/50 of a second can trigger events capable of rendering IT equipment non-operational for anywhere from 15 minutes to multiple hours. Research from IDC shows infrastructure failures can cost large enterprises $100,000 per hour, and the failure of critical applications can ring in at up to a million dollars an hour.
- Risks are intensifying. Many of today’s storage systems, servers and network devices rely on miniaturized components that are susceptible to fail under power conditions that earlier generations could easily withstand. In addition, while modern technologies such as converged infrastructure and virtualization afford dramatic advantages, they also require the correct power protection solution to maximize performance. Keeping these applications highly available has never been more critical.
- Generators and surge suppressors aren’t enough. While generators can keep systems operational during a complete power outage, they offer zero protection against spikes and other electrical disturbances — and they still require sufficient time to power on during a blackout. And although surge suppression devices do provide some level of protection, they aren’t capable of safeguarding against issues such as power loss, under-voltages and brownout conditions.
Calculating the consequences
When considering the potential fallout from a data center outage, you must take into account not only the direct costs — damage to equipment and mission-critical data — but also the indirect effects and missed opportunities. Downtime takes a toll on organizational productivity, and can result in legal and regulatory repercussions, not to mention lost confidence and trust among key stakeholders and the public. Even more, organizations with revenue models that depend on a facility’s ability to deliver IT and networking services to customers (such as e-commerce and telecommunications companies) and those managing secure data (such as defense contractors and financial institutions) will experience the greatest downtime price tag, with the possibility of a single event totaling more than $1.7 million.
Neutralize threats with a high-quality backup solution
The proper UPS is the best line of defense against downtime. In the event of a complete power failure, a UPS will bridge the gap until a data center’s backup generator is up and running. Even more, UPS solutions shield a facility’s infrastructure during sags, surges and other power anomalies. Whether you choose to deploy a centralized UPS, zone/floor-level system, or a rackmount model, the optimal solution will not only deliver unparalleled availability, but can also offer efficiency gains and scalability in operations.
When striving to eliminate the threat of downtime, data center managers can take further steps to significantly reduce the frequency and duration of unplanned outages, including:
- Make data center availability your highest priority above everything else, including cost minimization and energy efficiency.
- Utilize all best practices in data center design and redundancy to maximize availability.
- Like other critical IT systems, UPSs must be inspected regularly and upgraded as needed. Be sure to test or monitor UPS batteries, generators and switchgear to ensure your emergency power will perform when needed. Furthermore, contract with a trained technician to perform regular scheduled preventive maintenance on your UPS system, inspecting the unit on an annual basis and the batteries every 6 months.
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