Unplanned Downtime: Data Center vs. On Premise (part two)

As an organization, you want to experience as little downtime as possible to guarantee the continuity of business processes. How can you make sure that the downtime is kept to a minimum? The answer is simple: reduce the risks and prepare a plan B.
Table of Contents

Considerations

It’s important to consider placing servers on-premise (in your office location) or in an external data center. You have to decide if you want to pay monthly costs for colocation in a data center or save costs while bringing your servers to your location. Don’t forget to ask the important questions such as: If your servers are down, how much revenue would you lose? What risks are you willing to take? And how much will it cost? It would be convenient to calculate how much time and money can be saved by preventing downtime. Usually, some investments are needed to prevent downtime, but they might be necessary.

Data Center vs. On-Premise

Critical business applications must be available 24/7, as companies and their customer base rely on data centers for the availability of services and applications at all times. You can choose to install the equipment in your own company or a data center. A data center might be pricier, but it comes with many benefits.

Facilities in a data center

A data center is more than a building with servers. Thanks to various security measurements such as climate control, constant power supply, and fire safety measures, there is always a stable and conditioned environment for the hardware. In most data centers, these measures are redundant, so the servers never run out of power, even during a complete power outage. When choosing a data center, it is imperative to be able to choose redundant facilities.

The costs of installing a redundant power supply are so high that it is almost impossible to achieve this in a regular business building. Without proper measures present and a backup plan ready, a power failure can take the servers down immediately, with many adverse consequences.

A data center also uses various advanced cooling systems and fire safety measurements that cannot be used in the same way in an office building. Data centers have special equipment, such as gas extinguishing, so servers remain intact in case of a fire, while at the office, servers can be damaged just by the extinguisher.

Connectivity

Another critical factor is the internet connection, which can go down at any time, so most data centers have connections to different Internet Exchanges. In an event of a malfunction on the AMS-IX (Amsterdam Internet Exchange), all providers connected to it go offline. If a company always wants to be online, the internet link must also be connected redundantly.

It’s best to choose a data center with multiple Internet Exchanges connected, like the DE-CIX, NDIX, NL-IX, or the R-IX. If an emergency occurs, the data traffic is routed throughout alternative paths. For example, on 13 May 2015, there was an incident on the AMS-IX with significant consequences. An error was made during maintenance work, causing internal routers and switches to become overloaded, taking many servers and websites down. This type of malfunction can cost companies millions of euros.

100% uptime doesn’t exist

Uptime stands for the amount of time that a service is available and operational online. Is it possible to guarantee 100% uptime? In theory, it should, but not in reality. A guarantee of 100% uptime creates a conflict between technical issues and the expectations of customers.

No organization can provide 100% uptime, including data centers, which depend on external parties to provide internet, infrastructure, network, and power facilities. These facilities are implemented redundantly within a data center, but some external factors are unavoidable. Therefore, it’s essential to think about the implications of downtime and how to minimize this.

Uptime and SLA

A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a contract between a hosting provider and its customer. This document defines the solutions offered by the hosting provider and the customer’s requirements. It also states the consequences for the service provider if the agreements from the SLA are not delivered. It’s crucial to check what uptime does the SLA guarantee.

In an SLA, uptime is measured in nines. The more nines, the better the uptime. The nines also determine how much downtime there can be.

What do the nines mean?

Downtime/year
Downtime/month
Downtime/week
Downtime/day
Uptime
3.65 days
7.20 hours
1.68 hours
14.4 minutes
99% (“two nines”)
8.76 hours
43.8 minutes
10.1 minutes
1.44 minutes
99.9% (“three nines”)
52.56 minutes
4.38 minutes
1.01 minutes
8.64 seconds
99.99% (“four nines”)
5.26 minutes
25.9 seconds
6.05 seconds
864.3 ms
99.999% (“five nines”)
31.5 seconds
2.59 seconds
604.8 ms
86.4 ms
99.9999% (“six nines”)
3.15 seconds
262.97 ms
60.48 ms
8.64 ms
99.99999% (“seven nines”)
315.569 ms
26.297 ms
6.048 ms
0.864 ms
99.999999% (“eight nines”)
31.5569 ms
2.6297 ms
0.6048 ms
0.0864 ms
99.9999999% (“nine nines”)

In e-commerce, an uptime of 99.999% is recommended as a minimum for the systems. This means less than 6 minutes of downtime a year. If a data center has more redundancy implemented, there are more nines behind the dot. More nines equal a lower downtime.

Make sure you have a plan B

In addition to redundancy, having an extra location can provide extra security. Many data centers currently cluster around Amsterdam, so many companies depend on a relatively small area. A disaster in this region can have significant economic ramifications. Large companies often store their data in several data centers in different regions as a backup to prevent damage in an emergency.

Everyone in the IT industry can agree that downtime harms business operations, causing financial and reputational damage, and must be mitigated using all available resources. This can involve redundant facilities within a data center, SLAs, or even using multiple data centers.

In conclusion, it’s essential for companies to first make a thorough evaluation of failure risks with an estimate of how much downtime can cost them per hour (or minute) and draft a plan B to prevent that.

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As an organization, you want to experience as little downtime as possible to guarantee the continuity of business processes. How can you make sure that the downtime is kept to a minimum? The answer is simple: reduce the risks and prepare a plan B.