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What Causes Data Center Outages and How to Avoid Them

Major storms can cause a data center outage.
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In this blog, we’ll discuss data center outage causes and how to protect against them.

In the modern world, when we’re using devices for virtually everything, a low battery or complete malfunction can significantly hinder our work or social lives.

Mechanical failures happen on smaller scales with personal devices. But, a data center outage can cause critical problems for an enterprise of any size.

Data center outages are fairly common. Survey results from just a few years ago showed that around one-third of all data centers had experienced an outage during that year.

At the time it was a significant increase from the 25 percent from the previous year. Unfortunately, it’s a number that’s likely risen even higher.

As a business owner, it can be difficult to predict every single scenario that could potentially derail your company’s progress.

Especially when some of the causes of data center outages, like a natural disaster, are simply out of our capability to control.

However, being aware of some of the common causes of data center outages can help companies plan.

By establishing as many preventative measures as possible, while also preparing contingency and disaster recovery plans in the event of an outage, you can greatly reduce the risk and damage of a potential data center outage.

What Could Cause a Data Center Outage?

how to avoid data center outage

Many of the culprits of a data center outage or even just short downtime are often pretty preventable. For the most part anyway.

They can be avoided with the right processes. Some common causes of data center outages include:

  • Network failures
  • Hardware or software malfunction
  • Power Outages
  • Cyber Attacks
  • Human Error

We’ll take a more detailed look at some of these common causes.

We’ll also offer suggestions on how basic preventative measures and more efficient processes can help provide some insurance against data center outage and downtime.

Hardware Malfunction and Outages

Data centers are physical structures that rely on the sustainability of other physical structures. And sometimes, unfortunately, physical equipment like IT hardware simply fails causing an outage.

Especially in the tech industry and data centers in particular, where machines and equipment are running 24/7. With such vulnerability to failure, it’s no wonder physical hardware malfunction is often a leading cause of data center outages.

Data center cooling systems can also fail. And of course old servers reach end of life and racks might go down, and the list goes on and on.

Predictive and preventative maintenance can help you be aware of potential failures in the pipeline. However, there are never guarantees.

The best defense against a data center outage is to have a strong contingency plan when failures inevitably happen.

Be ready to divert power elsewhere or have backups on standby.

Software Failure Can Lead to Downtime

Since the shift to more virtual, network-based infrastructures over the last decade, it’s no surprise that software failure also contributes to many data center outages and downtimes.

Though oftentimes they’re much shorter and less likely than hardware failures.

Still, outdated software can create dangerous security gaps.

Software bugs, unpatched glitches, poor testing practices, and more threaten the stability of any data centers utilizing a software infrastructure.

Similar to hardware issues, routine maintenance and monitoring plays a crucial role in longevity and limiting outages due to software failures.

Stay vigilant on regular testing and updates and be aware of how a failure to recognize potential shortcomings can result in dangerous downtime.

Cyberattacks and Data Center Outages

avoid data center outage

Cyberattacks are still on the rise, and the threat they pose against data center outages and downtimes is at an all-time high.

Aside from the headlines and PR nightmare a cyberattack poses, the longterm effects and recovery time can totally destabilize an organization.

Public cloud services, and the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, among other modern trends, put data center networks at the risk of ransomware and distributed denial of service attacks.

It’s more important now than ever to analyze potential security gaps in your data center infrastructure and plan accordingly.

Some common, modern solutions to cyberattacks include:

  • Blended ISP connections
  • Carrier-neutral data center connectivity options
  • Advanced data analytics to recognize potential security gaps
  • Use of colocation facilities

Data Centers and Natural Disasters

Much like mechanical failures, natural disasters are unfortunate inevitabilities.

Understanding your data center’s physical location, and the potential risks involved in your geographical area can go a long way to minimizing any downtime.

Know the risks. Are you in an area where hurricane season is a factor every year?

What about the risk of earthquakes or tornadoes?

Do you have any edge data centers in your network that are at risk?

Taking into account the physical layout and structure of your data centers in conjunction with natural disaster protection will ensure your longterm stability.

Have a plan. In the event of a natural disaster emergency, it’s important to not only have an evacuation plan, but something that protects your physical assets for the long term.

You’ll also want to institute the right disaster recovery plan to keep any outages at an absolute minimum.

Human Error is a Common Cause of Outages

Of all of the above issues and potential causes of a data center outage, the one common through-line is the element of human error.

And much like the above problems, human error is also nearly impossible to completely guard against and prevent.

It might be simple negligence on the part of a technician, or a complete accident, but it’s hard to ignore the catastrophic consequences of human error.

AI analytics and programmed predictive maintenance will help minimize the effect (and need) for human interference in the day-to-day operations.

However, having the right processes in place can make the biggest difference.

It might be simple tasks like proper documentation of daily operations, regular inventory checks of cooling equipment, and physical maintenance inspections.

Make sure the right training programs are in place for employees and be vigilant to correct and discipline any deviations from processes.

When your employees understand the gravity of their role in protecting longterm day-to-day operations, they’ll take greater care to ensure those processes are closely followed and completed.

How Much Does a Data Outage Cost?

It’s calculated that a data center outage can cost around $9,000 per minute. And actually, this number has likely gone up.

Which is why it’s imperative to keep downtimes at an absolute minimum.

Having a recovery plan is absolutely necessary. But more than that, it’s important to have an understanding of how to successfully execute a recovery plan.

With the proper recovery plan, your business can be up and running again, without the threat against your company’s bottom line.

Always Be Ready for an Outage

Preparation is key. Understanding the potential risks of a data center outage while realizing where those specific threats directly relate to your business is the first step in preventing long downtimes.

Make sure employees and company leadership at all levels have approved of a recovery plan. Also, make sure they understand exactly how to execute it.

Not all threats are preventable. But gaining the knowledge to react when those threats reach a critical level can be the difference in your company’s success and growth long-term.

The right security and risk assessments will help tremendously in disaster prevention.

Simply having the right disaster recovery plan can make a key difference in your company’s loss recovery.

With Data Center Security you must learn all about the best tools to protect your data from network attacks.

It’s also important to note that in the event of a data center decommission, there are vital security measures to take.

Companies must choose the right measures to ensure used hardware is properly cared for. Hardware may be disposed of in some cases.

In other cases, where network equipment is sold, data should be erased safely and properly.

And as a leader in IT Asset Disposition, exIT Technologies can help.

If you are considering upgrading your data center or selling IT equipment, let us help you get the most for your used IT equipment.

Contact us today for a free asset appraisal and service quote.

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