The Most Common Causes of Data Center Outages

    Did you know that a single incorrect keystroke could cost you millions of dollars? It happened to Amazon when a technician typed in an incorrect command and it resulted in several hours of downtime and cost an estimated 150 million dollars.

    Your business may not be nearly as large as Amazon, nor would your outage affect as many customers. However, smaller-sized businesses can feel the effects of downtime more severely—sometimes catastrophically.

    In fact, 93% of businesses that experienced an outage for more than 10 days filed for bankruptcy within the next 12 months, and half of those businesses filed for bankruptcy immediately.

    How secure is your network? While you ponder that, we invite you to consider the following 6 most common threats that could take you offline for hours or even days.

    Human error

    We are still our own worst enemy. A whopping 70% of data center failure can be attributed to human error.

    These simple mistakes may include:

    • Misadjusting temperatures
    • Removing a power plug
    • Mistyped commands

    However, in most cases, the blame shouldn’t be put solely on the employee(s) in question. Experts have said that many of the human errors by individuals can actually be traced upwards to senior management who made a poor decision when it came to:

    • Design compromises
    • Budget cuts
    • Staff reduction
    • Staffing coverage
    • Staff training
    • Maintenance schedules
    • Vendor selection

    If you want to avoid this and want to find out what questions to ask a potential company about their staff, consider getting more details from Upstack about what to look for in a provider.

    Power outages

    These power outages may be the result of extreme weather, or the power system being overwhelmed. In either case, proper redundancies need to be in place, or things can come to an abrupt stop.

    Recent research reveals that while data centers are getting better at managing their power, the rate of power outages has still increased in recent years.

    The most common causes of power outages in the data center sector include:

    • Power grid failure
    • Poorly designed power distribution units
    • Transformer-blowouts

    These grids are not just brought down by tornadoes or earthquakes. Any network can be overloaded due to increased demand or bad planning.

    Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) Failure

    The UPS’ function is to maintain your data center’s power supply, even in the event that the main power is cut off or malfunctioning.

    Despite the obvious level of importance, we’re still seeing UPS failures accounting for about 1 in 4 (25%) data center downtime events in cloud data centers and colocation facilities.

    This may be caused by:

    • Battery failure
    • A damaged fan
    • Sensor, capacitor or circuit boards failure

    Any one or combination of these is enough to bring you down.

    Natural Disasters

    We’ve recently seen the damage that a natural disaster can do, with Hurricane Sandy causing an extensive data center outage all across New York and New Jersey.

    It’s important to ask direct questions to a would-be provider about the structural integrity of their facility and if it was designed to withstand earthquakes or flooding.

    However, keep in mind that the events that take you offline don’t always take place within the walls of the data center building. For example, their facility may be compromised if a storm takes down a power line a few miles away.

    Cyber Attacks

    Cyber attacks, specifically Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, were responsible for 22% of unplanned outages as recently as 2015, and these caused outages that lasted an average of just under 8 hours.

    However, recently the FBI has cracked down on these attacks and their efforts have cut their prevalence in half, year-over-year.

    The threat of any type of cyber attack still needs to be top-of-mind at all times.

    They say failing to prepare is preparing to fail. If your network isn’t prepared to face any of the above events, one day could close the doors on your business forever.


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