What Really Causes Network Outages and What You Can Do to Stop It.

Electronic data is one of the most valuable assets of any company. It propels business, connects colleagues, clients and vendors, and drives growth.

The cost of any unplanned corporate outage is high, resulting in business interruption and distraction, lost revenue, decreased productivity, and lost business. In some cases, it can result in a total shutdown and business failure.

You might guess that the single biggest reason for an outage is a broken server, but you would be wrong. Surprisingly, IT industry research firm The Ponemon Institute reports that only 4 percent of outages are the result of a faulty server.

So, what are the causes of most outages?

  • Inadequate or No Backup Power
    The Ponemon Institute reports that loss of power is the number one reason for outages – at 24%. This may include an outage where the electricity goes out and equipment goes down immediately or where a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) device fails. If a generator or other redundant source of power is not available and you are unable to switch to an alternative power source before UPS device batteries runs out, you will be down for the count.
  • Cyber-Crime
    Close behind loss of power, the second biggest reason for outages at 22% is cyber-crime. This should be no surprise to anyone as it seems like we hear about a new cyber-attack every day. With the proliferation of malware and targeted phishing attacks perpetrated by sophisticated hackers, modern cyber-attacks can compromise entire networks. The recent WannaCry attack shut down businesses around the globe and caused many hospitals to scramble to recover critical patient data and resume ambulance and other emergency services.
  • Water
    We are not talking about water from a natural disaster such as flooding but water from leaking pipes or a building’s sprinkler system. Large server rooms are sometimes located in corporate office buildings which may be decades old and built to house offices and people first and servers and other hardware second. Water, rather than chemicals, is frequently used to suppress fires in these older buildings. Improper maintenance or accidental triggering of the system can cause major water damage and a large outage which could continue for hours or days if the equipment is destroyed.
  • Insufficient Cooling
    The cooling system is another component of a building’s infrastructure that is often installed with a focus on keeping employees cool rather than cooling a server room which can generate an incredible amount of heat. In addition to ensuring that the facility is sufficiently cooled, it is also important that you have extra equipment on hand to replace broken components as they fail and a plan in place to fail over to a backup system while you quickly repair the air conditioning before all the racks of equipment shut down.
  • A Failover System that Doesn’t Fail Over
    Whether your company has two servers or a whole room full of servers, you most likely have a failover system that starts up automatically in the event of an outage. The goal is to is to have all user traffic automatically transferred to the backup equipment without employees or clients ever aware that there was a problem. Unfortunately, these backup systems are often installed and then rarely thought of again until they are needed. Without regular testing, you won’t know if there is a problem until it is too late.
  • Running on Old Hardware
    When hardware is running properly, we tend to forget about. We ignore its age and spend our time on more urgent IT needs rather than working on a migration plan to replace outdated equipment with new hardware. Whether it is simply lack of planning or budgetary constraints, you are playing Russian roulette with your business. Eventually, equipment will fail.
  • Trying to Do Too Much
    Regularly scheduled maintenance usually has a standard list of updates, upgrades, patches and changes which need to be made but the To Do list for each maintenance window often gets longer and longer as unexpected or last-minute requests are submitted. Businesses routinely inform their employees and clients as to when the maintenance will take place but to stay within that window of time and provide the least amount of disruption to their users, administrators may rush through the process, overlooking important components or taking shortcuts to get the job done on time. This can result in server- or network-wide errors and outages which can take a long time to uncover and fix because of all the different changes which have been made at the same time.

Advantage of a Dedicated Data Center

Most system administrators, IT managers and directors of IT are focused in two specific areas:

  1. Management of day to day tactical IT activities such as on-boarding new employees and putting out the proverbial fire.
  2. Implementation of strategic corporate technology initiatives that will help the business achieve its future goals.

The challenge is to somehow accomplish daily responsibilities, put out unexpected fires, conduct continuous network monitoring, regularly maintain equipment, anticipate possible points of failure and maintain the server room’s physical structure, which is not one of their primary responsibilities, all at the same time.

Whether your business has 3 servers in a closet or multiple racks in a large server room, these challenges are the same. Traditional corporate office space does not contain the infrastructure required to consistently maintain 100% uptime and most IT teams do not have the resources to proactively monitor and maintain their facilities and equipment 24×7.

By choosing to move your IT infrastructure to a free-standing, purpose built data center, not only can you free up your team to focus on more long-term initiatives but also significantly reduce and even eliminate downtime.

Besides the cost savings that comes with the multi-tenant environment, data centers can take over all maintenance responsibilities and monitor your equipment around the clock. Built from the ground up with technology and data protection top of mind, data centers also have redundant backup systems for network access, sophisticated climate control, and their own power generators to ensure that all equipment stays up and running in the event of a storm or outage at the electric utility’s facility.

If your goal is to eliminate outages but continue to have your own IT team maintain your company’s equipment, a data center provider which offers colocation services may be the perfect solution. You can house your hardware in the data center’s facility and manage it yourself, while also taking advantage of the redundant resources they can provide.

Discover how Evocative maintains a continuous 100% uptime for all our data center clients. Call us at 888-365-COLO and take a tour of our facilities.

Data Center Build vs Buy

colocation data center

IT industry analyst firm IDC reports that the digital universe is doubling in size every two years and that by 2020 the data we all produce and copy will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes.

With this explosive growth, the need for additional storage space is always present. Companies are considering how to grow beyond the simple server closet and whether the best solution would be to build their own data center facility or outsource their equipment and data to a third-party colocation data center.

Although money is an important component in this decision, it is only one component along with reliability, scalability, security and others.

Initial Considerations

Even before you consider the benefits of building a single-tenant data storage facility vs moving to a multi-tenant, colocation data center, take these questions into consideration.

  • Are you willing and able to do what it takes to achieve 100% uptime?
    Do you understand the full spectrum of resources, expertise, capabilities, and money needed to maintain a 100% uptime? Any downtime can mean lost revenue, productivity and potential future business. In some cases, it can even cause businesses to go out of business.
  • What is the real cost of hiring additional employees?
    In addition to their basic salary, did you add benefits, vacation time, health insurance, ongoing education and other items into the cost of each new hire? Remember, you will need a team on staff 24/7 to ensure everything is running properly. And, in addition to technical experts to service your network infrastructure, you will also need staff to maintain the HVAC and security systems as well.
  • Are you required to comply with industry regulations?
    If your business is in healthcare, legal, financial services or other regulated industries, be sure to fully understand how your technology must be managed and maintained and how client data must be transmitted, stored and secured.
  • What is your time frame?
    When do you need the additional space, whether that is your own facility or a third-party data center, to be up and running? Is it one month from now, a year from now or five years from now? Consider that it typically takes 1-2 years to plan and build a new single tenant facility. Can you wait that long? An existing third-party data center can modify their facility to your specific needs and have the space available for you to move in in weeks.
  • Do you know how much capacity you will need?
    Not a guesstimate of capacity for the next year but capacity for the next 5-10 years. If your guess is high but you only end up filling a quarter of the space, your per rack cost will be extremely high. But, if your guess is low and you quickly run out of space, any cost savings you may have achieved will be lost.
  • Can you bear the full cost on your own?
    Above and beyond the cost to hire additional personnel, do you have the funds to pay for a new facility, hardware, utilities, connectivity, security, certifications, equipment upgrades, facility improvements, and general maintenance? In a single tenant environment, the total cost will be carried by you. In a multi-tenant data center, expenses are shared across the companies included.

Building A Data Center

Whether you choose to add additional square feet of space to your existing corporate office or construct a standalone building, there are three primary benefits to developing your own single-tenant data center facility.

  • Complete Control:
    Building a data center at your company’s corporate office or nearby, gives your team complete control over the physical environment, the network infrastructure and all hardware and software. You can limit access to anyone you would like, maintain the facility at a temperature of your choosing and decide when and how to make enhancements, conduct maintenance or upgrade any resources.
  • Little Chance of a Lost Lease:
    Having ownership of the facility helps to protect you from the danger of being forced out, which is possible when leasing space from a third-party provider.
  • Multi-Use Space:
    When considering a company’s growth and expansion plans, larger corporate office space is often acquired with the intent of “growing into” the rest of the building. That unused space can be transformed into a data center by upgrading the power and cooling infrastructure. Alternatively, building a standalone structure also gives you the opportunity to add additional office space which will enable your IT team to work next to the data center floor, decreasing the time it takes to get to the facility in an emergency or to maintain and upgrade equipment. It also decreases travel expenses.

Data Center Outsourcing

Both smaller companies with limited IT resources and large enterprises that are looking for new ways to allocate and manage the technology they already have can benefit from outsourcing their computing resources and data to a third-party data center. Besides the immediate cost savings of not having to build out a new facility and the ability to expand into a new space right away, there are additional advantages to consider.

  • Pay Over Time vs Paying Up Front:  
    Unlike building a data center where a large amount of cash will be needed up front to begin construction, choosing to utilize a third-party data center won’t require a large initial capital outlay, only a small predictable monthly fee for space and usage.
  • Resource Allocation as Needed:  
    There is no need to predict your capacity requirements well in advance and possibly get it wrong. Capacity can be scaled up quickly as usage or space needs increase, allowing you to pay for only the resources required. If your technology needs change and the resources are no longer needed, the capacity can quickly decrease so you are not paying for services which are not in use.
  • Greater Influence Over Physical Space and Utility Expenses: 
    Economies of scale also come into play when you consider the cost of the physical space, electricity, air conditioning and other infrastructure resources. A large data center provider with many corporate clients has significant leverage when it comes to negotiating additional savings on building materials and infrastructure expenses. These savings can be passed on to all the companies renting space.
  • Experienced IT Professionals: 
    A team of experienced IT professionals have been hired by the data center provider to monitor, maintain, secure and upgrade the facility, infrastructure, servers, cloud services and all other IT resources around the clock. This is not a side responsibility but their sole focus. They receive continuous education to ensure that they are up to date on the latest technology and that the facility is running at the highest level of efficiency.
  • Physical Security: 
    A standalone data center provides multiple layers of physical security, protecting the building and all contents around the clock. Biometric access not only at the building’s entrance but also to internal offices and cages ensures that only authorized personnel gain access to critical data. Video surveillance, redundant utilities, lack of windows, crash barriers at vehicle entry points, fire doors and secure air handing all help to ensure that client hardware and electronic data are stored in a facility where security is a top priority.
  • Carrier Neutral Providers:
    Some third-party data centers are carrier neutral – meaning that they welcome multiple providers of telecommunications and internet services. This enables their data center clients to select the service provider that meets their specific needs and budget. You can also change providers without needing to physically move servers to another facility.
  • Redundancy: 
    Data centers establish formal data redundancy plans where they manage their infrastructure, technology and carrier access to survive a variety of failure scenarios. Redundancy, or duplication of critical components like servers, network system components, and telecommunications links, ensures that a quick and smooth transition can be made to alternative resources should a failure occur.

As you can see, there are many factors to take into consideration when deciding whether building your own facility or leasing space with a data center provider is the right solution for you. Building your own data center is certainly not a quick and easy undertaking but it does give you total control. On the other hand, the ability to seamlessly scale as needed, maintain a continuous 100% uptime and simply move between data carriers as requirements change make a powerful case for selecting the third-party data center option.

Regardless of the size of your company, it is essential to do an in-depth analysis of both your current business and technology needs, your future goals and available resources to make a fully informed decision.