How Much Is Data Center Downtime Costing You?

Data centers are crucial for most modern business operations, thanks to the surge in big data availability and interest. However, most businesses underestimate just how important it is to keep those data centers up and running; according to an Emerson Network Power study, a single minute of downtime costs the average business more than $8,800—in lost productivity, functionality, and necessary repairs.

So why is data center downtime so common, and how can you avoid such a costly event?

Main Causes of Data Center Downtime

These are some of the biggest causes of data center downtime:

  • UPS system failure. If you’re invested in your data center, you probably have a reliable uninterruptible power supply (UPS), but that “uninterruptable” quality isn’t exactly a guarantee; no matter what type of UPS you use, there’s still the possibility of a failure, either in the short term (10 seconds or less) or long term (longer than 10 seconds). This could be due to a number of potential issues; the UPS could have an inherent defect, it could have deteriorated in quality or reliability over time, or it may not be used the way it was intended by the manufacturer. This may also be the result of a natural disaster.
  • Cybercrime. Cybercrimes are a growing cause of data center outages, growing from a mere 2 percent of all incidents in 2010 to now more than 22 percent of all incidents, according to a Ponemon Institute study. If a cybercriminal finds a way to remotely gain access to your facility, they could easily hold your data center hostage, or deny your access entirely. Investing in greater security can mitigate your risk here.
  • Demand failures. Your servers themselves may be responsible for the downtime. If they aren’t properly maintained, or if your connections aren’t reliable, your servers could fail to retrieve the power they need to keep running.

Three Main Areas of Proactive Care

Obviously, these downtime causes aren’t entirely out of your control. As M Global Services explains, preventative maintenance and proactive care can mitigate the majority of your outages. The better you proactively manage your data center, the less likely you’ll be to experience downtime in any way. Most proactive care programs feature elements to address these three all-important areas:

  1. Human error. First, you need to reduce the risk of human error interfering with your equipment—and this affects multiple areas. If your IT staff isn’t properly trained in how to maintain your equipment, or don’t know how to identify or react to a potential problem, they won’t be able to take the measures necessary to prevent a full outage. Along similar lines, the majority of cybercrimes are ultimately attributable to some kind of human error—someone may not have chosen a strong password, or may have fallen for a phishing scheme. Investing in better training for your staff is a must if you want to keep your data centers fully operational for as long as possible.
  2. Poor maintenance. Servers are complex pieces of machinery that need to be well-maintained if you want to maximize their lifespans. You’ll need to routinely monitor its performance, check things like internal fans and connections, and replace parts as they become worn. Ongoing maintenance is an additional expense you’ll need to worry about, but it’s far cheaper than neglecting it and facing a full-fledged outage as a result.
  3. Risk mitigation. Finally, you can reduce your risks by instituting risk prevention strategies in a number of different areas. For example, you can mitigate the risk of a natural disaster by better protecting your physical servers and backing them up with a mirror in a different location. You can reduce your risk of susceptibility to cybercrime by investing in more proactive security measures. You can also reduce your risk of suffering an outage simply by investing in better equipment; though spending more doesn’t always guarantee your equipment will last longer, investing in the right types of machinery can help keep your data center running smoothly.

Sparing yourself just a few minutes of data center downtime could save your business tens of thousands of dollars—not to mention the resulting headaches. Take the time to come up with a better system to proactively manage your hardware and your staff. You’ll thank yourself later.


Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.