Don’t Let A Data Center Outage Leave You Out In The Cold

ColdWelcome to the winter of my discontent: outside the wind is moaning and shrieking up a storm, snow buries the landscape, temperatures keep plummeting and groundhogs are turning up frozen stiff as boards. So it seemed appropriate to consider disaster recovery and business continuity (DR/BC).

Today’s data centers — yours or your service provider’s — are increasing in importance as business moves to a 24×7, anywhere, anytime, anything, anybody physical and virtual reality. Virtualization, software-everything and the cloud are being thrown at the rampaging flood of data, devices, things and mobile and stationary workers. How quickly you recover from a data-center outage can mean the difference between keeping your doors open or closing them for good.

A recent study of U.S.-based data centers, 2013 Cost of Data Center Outages, reported that the cost of data-center downtime has increased significantly in the last three years. Conducted by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by Emerson Network Power, the cost of an unplanned data center outage has risen to just over $7,900 per minute, a 41% increase from the $5,600 it was in 2010.

That can be the least of an organization’s concerns: 94% of companies suffering from a catastrophic data loss do not survive. Almost half, 43%, never reopen, and 51% close within two years.

“Given the fact that today’s data centers support more critical, interdependent devices and IT systems than ever before, most would expect a rise in the cost of an unplanned data center outage compared to 2010. However, the 41% increase was higher than expected,” said Larry Ponemon, Ph.D., chairman and founder, the Ponemon Institute. “This increase in cost underscores the importance for organizations to make it a priority to minimize the risk of downtime that can potentially cost thousands of dollars per minute.”

Highlights of the Ponemon study included:

  • 91% experienced at least one, but often 2, unplanned data center outage in the past 24 months;
  • the average reported incident length was 86 minutes, resulting in average cost per incident of approximately $690,200 (in 2010 it was 97 minutes at approximately $505,500);
  • for a total data center outage, which had an average recovery time of 119 minutes, average costs were approximately $901,500 (in 2010, it was 134 minutes at about $680,700);
  • for a partial data center outage, which averaged 56 minutes in length, average costs were approximately $350,400 (in 2010, it was 59 minutes at approximately $258,000);
  • those organizations with revenue models that depend on the data center’s ability to deliver IT and networking services to customers – such as telecommunications service providers and e-commerce companies – and those that deal with a large amount of secure data – such as defense contractors and financial institutions – continue to incur the most significant costs associated with downtime; with the highest cost of a single event more than $1.7 million;
  • these same industries did see a slight decrease (2-5%) compared to 2010 costs, while those organizations that traditionally have been less dependent on their data centers saw a significant increase, up to 129%; and,
  • 90% of the costs were attributed to business disruption, lost revenue and loss of productivity (the actual costs for recovery and repair were negligible in comparison).

DR/BC Top 7 Cheat Sheet

Here are 7 common attitudes and behaviors for reducing costs of a data center outage:

  • Consider data center availability the highest priority above all others, including cost minimization and improving energy efficiency.
  • Utilize all best practices in data center design and redundancy to maximize availability.
  • Dedicate ample resources to bring the data center up and running in case of an unplanned outage.
  • Have complete support from senior management on efforts to prevent and manage unplanned outages.
  • Regularly test generators and switchgear to ensure emergency power in case a utility outage does occur.
  • Regularly test or monitor UPS batteries.
  • Implement data center infrastructure management (DCIM).

Image credit: Roman Sotnikov ( /  CC-BY-SA