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Confused by Data Center Tier Standards? Allow us to Clarify

Big Data

Data Center tier standards mean different things to different people. Frankly, there is a lot of confusion surrounding what makes a data center a tier 1, tier 2, tier 3 or even a tier 4 certified facility. But why would you need to know? The answer is simple; worldwide business operations – regardless of industry type rely on data center uptime to support day-to-day operations. Without specific operating protocols a reliable infrastructure will cease to function properly. Side note: data center downtime spells disaster for almost everybody.

What are Tier Standards?

Tier standards were created by the Uptime Institute to accurately assess the availability and reliability of a data center. Put another way, if power were to go out knocking a business offline, what controls (if any) were put in place to limit or prevent the downtime from happening in first place. As such, the Uptime Institute has devised a tier standards ranking system – from 1 to 4, 1 being the least fault tolerant and 4 being the most fault tolerant. A Tier 3 Data Center for example, represents the majority of commercial retail data center space currently available to consumers. Tier 4 data centers are the most redundant and feature multiple signal paths for power distribution. Tier 4 facilities nearly eliminate all risks associated with power loss and downtime while catering mainly to large multi-national businesses.

So Why all the Confusion

Tier standards are simple to understand yet confusion still persists, especially now days when the industry is growing and companies are lining up to claim they are certified just to get a leg up on the competition. Herein lies more grey area; wholesale providers sometimes declare construction blueprints to be on par with tier standards yet deviate from those plans upon completion of the facility. Experts are calling this conundrum the build verse blueprint scenario; this is a disparity because meeting construction certification is much tougher that simply retrofitting an existing data center to meet tier 3 or tier 4 certification.

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Industry Maturity is What Drives Certifications

The truth is the data-center industry has matured to the point that it is a commercially viable marketplace – not just for wholesale operators but for resellers as well and whenever an industry goes main-stream there have got to be set standards put in place. Aside from the Uptime Institute, there are various ways in which a wholesale operator can certify a data center; LEED Certification and PUE (power use effectiveness) are some others as well. So what’s the point of all this mumbo jumbo? Given the commercial success of the data center industry, the need to achieve tier certification is so obvious but achieving them becomes forlorn due in part by all the misguided information out there. Tier certifications for data centers are important because they hold everyone to the same standard, which then raises said standard to the point that one day no one will ever have to say “we suffered some down-time today.” Food for thought.

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