Greg Ross is Vice President of Product Management for FairPoint Communications.
An unplanned outage is one of the worst things that can happen to a data center – and to your business According to a 2016 Ponemon Institute study, a data center outage costs businesses an average of $8,851 per minute. The report also found that since 2010, the average total cost of a data center outage is up 38 percent – to $740,357. Although it’s impossible to completely eliminate outages, you can take steps to mitigate the consequences of downtime and ensure business continuity.
Here are nine ways to mitigate the risk of an extended data center outage and help ensure business continuity:
Develop a Comprehensive Plan. Your data center and IT teams must ensure battery and generator backup systems are in place, and everyone’s roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. Many businesses should consider a secondary data center site for disaster recovery. If the primary site goes down, the secondary site should be able to keep the operation running.
Maintain Systems Regularly. Regular testing of data center infrastructure is essential to ensuring high availability. This includes frequent inspections, scheduled testing of primary and backup power systems under full electrical loads, adhering to equipment manufacturer guidelines, and benchmarking performance over time. If you test your infrastructure quarterly or even annually, you can identify and address potential problems, and be better prepared to maintain business continuity.
Update Maintenance Procedures. Data centers are dynamic environments with new systems and infrastructure components being added all the time. Comprehensive maintenance documentation is essential to all data center operations.
Train On-Site Staff. Access to trained personnel is a core requirement if you want to avoid outages due to human error. Your staff should be well versed in their day-to-day responsibilities, but also trained to respond quickly in worst-case scenarios. This is especially critical if you contract with a third-party for data center maintenance. You want trained, knowledgeable personnel available before, during and after an outage.
Automate Routine Tasks. Performing tasks, such as configuring and managing systems, should be automated whenever possible. Eliminating manual operations reduces outages caused by human error.
Locate Systems in Physically Secure Locations. To prevent unauthorized access, you should locate your primary and backup power systems in secure areas. Your facility must also include sophisticated, multi-factor access control systems to ensure that only authorized personnel gain entry. Using a secure, hardened data center environment to store your servers will help keep your core operational programs up and running.
Build Redundant Systems. In addition to housing important resources in multiple locations, business continuity requires high levels of redundancy within each location. You want backup sources for power, environmental systems and network connectivity, as well as the technical expertise to manage it. Because equipment failure is inevitable and the costs of an outage are substantial, organizations need to invest in redundancy.
Comprehensive Power Plan. Sophisticated IT equipment requires consistently clean power. However, power from commercial sources often needs to be conditioned and filtered. Data centers must have equipment that minimizes power anomalies such as voltage and frequency fluctuations, sags, spikes, surges, brownouts, and blackouts. You can reduce your risk of a data center power outage by drawing commercial power from different paths. However, this can be costly, which leads many companies to use third-party data centers that can offer that kind of essential power redundancy.
Strike the Right Balance between Efficiency and Availability. Because data centers consume huge amounts of electricity, companies have been under constant pressure to adopt greener solutions. But higher efficiency often comes at the expense of availability and reliability. In mission-critical data centers, managers need to find the ideal operating environment – one that delivers the highest levels of efficiency with the lowest risk of downtime.
IT outages can be devastating. Many companies never fully recover an extended outage, which makes planning and preparedness imperative. With the right plan, procedures, and systems in place, businesses can mitigate the risks of downtime and help ensure that they stay connected to customers, business partners, and employees.
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