Data Center Outages Generate Big Losses

Downtime in a data center can cost an average of $505,500 per incident, according to a Ponemon Institute study.

Chandler Harris, Contributor

May 12, 2011

3 Min Read

Analytics Slideshow: 2010 Data Center Operational Trends Report (click for larger image and for full slideshow)

Sure data center failures are costly, but how costly? Try an average of $5,600 per minute, according to a study of outages at U.S.-based data centers by the Ponemon Institute.

"Calculating the Cost of Data Center Outages," by the Ponemon Institute, analyzed costs associated with downtime at 41 data centers across varying industry segments with a minimum size of 2,500 square feet. The study was sponsored by Emerson Network Power, a provider of storage and energy products and services, among other things.

While it is no secret data center outages are costly, they also are common, according to the study. Of those surveyed, 95% experienced one or more unplanned data center outages in the past two years. Total outages occurred once a year on average and device-level outages occurred every two months.

To make matters worse, the study found the average data center downtime was 90 minutes, which results in an average cost per incident of about $505,500. For those data centers with complete outages over an average of 134 minutes, that's $680,000. The costs get larger for enterprises that depend on a data center's ability to deliver IT and networking services to customers, such as telecommunications service providers and e-commerce companies. A data center outage in these situations costs more than $1 million (or more than $11,000 per minute).

The study also found there is a disconnect between C-level executives and IT staff when it comes to data centers. Only a third of the IT staffs said they had adequate resources in order to recover from a failure. Plus, while 75% of the senior-level respondents felt their companies' senior management fully supports efforts to prevent and manage unplanned outages, only 31% of supervisor-level employees and below agreed.

"I talked to a data center professional very recently after the Ponemon study was done and he said, 'When you think about what it takes from a hardware and application standpoint to recover from an unplanned outage, I'm surprised anybody has adequate resources to recover from unplanned outages,'" said Peter Panfil, VP and general manager of Emerson Network Power's AC Power business, in an interview.

Respondents of this survey said the primary causes for unplanned outages were uninterruptible power supply (UPS) battery failure (29%); accidental/human error (24%); water, heat, or cooling failure (15%); weather issues (12%); generator failure (10%); IT equipment failure (5%); and other issues (5%).

Emerson Network Power sponsors a data center user group, which has found that heat density, power density, and availability are the top concerns of data center managers. One trend Panfil has seen with data center managers and workers is they face increasing pressure to cut costs by increasing energy efficiency, which has, at times, cut into availability, he said.

"What we've been telling [data center] folks is you have to demand efficiency without compromise," Panfil said. "In a meeting yesterday with a CIO, he said 'I get yelled about over efficiency, and fired over availability.' That is a return to sanity."

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