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Data Center Tiers – What Level Are You?

Data Center Tiers - What Level Are You? Cable Management Blog - AnD Cable Products

Chances are, if you are in the data center business, you know about the uptime tier standard. But do you know what the data center tiers system really means, and what level you are on now? Knowing how to showcase what your data center offers will help your customers choose the option that works best for them.

The thing to remember is this: while all data centers are not created equal, neither is a Tier 4 center essential for everyone. There are over 3,000,000 data centers in the United States alone. There used to be a unique designation for Cloud Data Centers (CDC) but that has been disappearing in recent years. Even if you haven’t officially been rated, you can determine your level from the information you’ll find here.

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Data Center Tiers - What Level Are You? Cable Management Blog - AnD Cable Products

What is the Uptime Tier Standard System?

Classification of data centers into tiers stared with the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and a simple four tier rating based on reliability. However as technology improved, the TIA system was not enough.

So the Uptime Institute stepped in with what was at first a four tier system that has developed into a five tier system, although Tier 5 data centers are rare as of this writing. You’ll see why shortly.

So which data center level are you?

Data Center Structure

Data centers have certain key components that contribute to their rating. Things like power, redundancy, temperature controls, humidity controls, and pressure controls all relate to reliability.

Tier 1 Data Centers

The simplest and lowest tier of data center, the tier one center essentially operates without power backups or redundancies. What does that mean?

Essentially a tier one data center is a warehouse with power and climate control. Since there are no redundancies and backups, if the power goes out, the server goes down. Downtime will also occur during routine maintenance. There is a single path for power and cooling, and no backup generator. Annual downtime cannot exceed 1729 minutes.

This kind of data center is also the cheapest to operate and therefore the least expensive for consumers. It’s good for internet based companies who don’t depend on 24/7 customer service. If a company relies heavily on data access all the time, this type of center will not work for them.

Tier 2 Data Centers

A tier two center has some redundancy. There is still one path for power and cooling, but there is a backup generator and a backup cooling system in case the power goes out.

The primary advantage to this is less downtime, by a reasonable margin. The maximum allowable downtime is 1361 minutes annually, or 99.74% uptime. This is a better option for most businesses and is generally not that much more expensive than a tier 1 center for consumers. Operating costs are marginally higher depending on the quality of the infrastructure backups.

Tier 3 Data Centers

This is perhaps the most common of tier structures for data centers. Essentially, all of the infrastructure is more complex than tier one or two. For example, all servers have multiple power sources and cooling paths. These centers must have dual uplinks at a minimum and must be dual powered.

Only 95 minutes of downtime can occur annually, and the tier 3 data center is considered N+1 Fault Tolerant, which means they have enough backup power for a 72-hour power outage.

The reason this is the most common data center tier system is that it is the most cost effective for many businesses.

Tier 4 Data Centers

The primary advantage of tier 4 data centers? Even less downtime annually, just over 26 minutes. They are also N+2 fault tolerant, and offer 96 hours of backup in case of a power outage.

This is the Cadillac of data centers. There are more redundancies, and each server is often individually dual powered. This center can essentially operate normally regardless of an infrastructure failure.

For enterprise companies who are data dependent, have 24/7 customer service and desire the most reliable system possible, this is the solution for them. It’s more expensive than tier 3 to operate and maintain, so has a higher cost to consumers.

Tier 5 Data Centers

Want to move beyond the Cadillac of systems to the Tesla model? Quite literally, tier five is the local renewable energy first cousin many data centers wish they could be. They are also the data center of tomorrow.

They must be able to run forever without water, have outside pollution detectors, and the capability to do something about that pollution. In addition, they must have permanently installed stored physical layer monitoring – such as power monitoring, securable server racks, and more.

Most must run on renewable energy to qualify, and local renewables are the norm. It’s not unusual for this type of data center to have its own solar farm.

While they are expensive to build, tier five data systems can save money in the long run, by using renewable energy. They’re the gold standard, but also the most expensive for consumers, at least at the moment.

The Right Solutions for any Tier

Here at AnD Cable Products, we have the right solution for you, no matter what data center tier you are. Our Horizontal Zero U Cable Organizers help you save space, keep cables organized, and be a more efficient data center.

Are you looking for cable and rack management solutions? Even physical layer network security? Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you and your data center efficiency.

Optimizing Server Cabinet Rack Space to Maximize Efficiency and Reduce Costs

Optimizing Rack Space and Air Flow in Server Racks and Cabinets

Smart optimization can help you increase rack space and realize significant equipment cost savings. Read our step-by-step guide that shows you how – and how much you could save.

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About the Author

Louis Chompff - Founder, AnD Cable Products, Rack and Cable ManagementLouis Chompff – Founder & Managing Director, AnD Cable Products
Louis established AnD Cable Products – Intelligently Designed Cable Management in 1989. Prior to this he enjoyed a 20+ year career with a leading global telecommunications company in a variety of senior data management positions. Louis is an enthusiastic inventor who designed, patented and brought to market his innovative Zero U cable management racks and Unitag cable labels, both of which have become industry-leading network cable management products. AnD Cable Products only offer products that are intelligently designed, increase efficiency, are durable and reliable, re-usable, easy to use or reduce equipment costs. He is the principal author of the Cable Management Blog, where you can find network cable management ideas, server rack cabling techniques and rack space saving tips, data center trends, latest innovations and more.
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