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How Data Availability is Changing Business Needs

By: Blair Felter on December 5, 2018

As organizations consider their data infrastructure options, many of them must make the critical decision about whether or not to entrust their data and IT assets with a data center provider. For some companies, colocation of existing hardware can translate to significant savings on power and cooling, while others choose to scrap their existing physical infrastructure altogether and opt for a completely virtual “data center as a service” (DCaaS) solution.

Regardless of the path their organizations take to a data center, a large percentage of CEOs remain justifiably concerned about entrusting their data with someone else. The prospect of losing access to data at a critical moment is a nightmare scenario that can keep any executive up at night. Data centers provide service level agreements (SLAs) to address these concerns, but with today’s companies increasingly relying on insights derived from customer data, ensuring that data remains available at all times is a key factor in any data center decision.

Data Availability Defined

Data center uptime SLAs measure the percentage of time that servers are online and accessible. While discussions of uptime typically focus on keeping servers up and running, most businesses are more concerned with what those servers actually do. Data availability is a term used to describe the extent to which data can be accessed at all times. An SLA guarantees a required level of uptime performance regardless of circumstances, ranging from normal conditions to a disaster situation.

Uptime essentially measures how often data is available, making it one of the most important considerations for companies looking to entrust their assets with a data center. Precision matters when it comes to data availability. A facility guaranteeing 99.99% uptime will still experience nearly an hour of downtime each year. If even a moment of that downtime occurs when a company needs to access its data, the impact could be devastating.

Why Data Availability Matters

To understand why data availability is so vital to organizations, it’s important to look at what happens when they don’t have access to it.

  • Lost Revenue: For any company that provides services over a network, losing access to the data that drives those services directly translates into lost revenue. Even if customers aren’t using data-based services directly, most organizations have employees who depend on that data to do their jobs; when they can’t access it, their productivity goes down. This can have costly effects throughout the organization, potentially disrupting distribution channels and other logistical efforts.

  • Compliance Liability: Any organization handling sensitive customer data is under a variety of legal obligations to handle its storage and transfer according to strict regulatory guidelines. Healthcare providers, for instance, must ensure that they’re in compliance with HIPAA/HITEC law, while any organization processing credit card payments must comply with PCI DSS 3.0 standards. Many of these regulations have clear expectations regarding data availability. Data centers can help to ensure that sensitive data is always kept safe through hybrid cloud deployments.

  • Lost Opportunities: Business decisions are increasingly being made on the basis of conclusions generated by analytics programs analyzing massive amounts of data. With so much data being connected from multiple sources through the use of edge computing architecture, organizations are finding ways to sort through this unstructured data to identify trends, habits, and other insights. These conclusions help to shape business practices, driving organizations to restructure their operations, target new markets, and rethink their engagement strategies. But without high levels of data availability, the powerful analytics software that generates these insights doesn’t have anything to work with, making it more difficult to base future plans on data analysis.

  • Brand Damage: In today’s increasingly crowded market, companies rely on their brand reputation to differentiate themselves from their competitors. When a company loses access to data, they run the risk of angering and alienating customers. Even a minor problem, such as a server going down for a few minutes, can inflict tremendous damage. Customers do not forget such lapses, and if it also involves the outright loss or compromise of personal information, they will often voice their displeasure over every media platform at their disposal.

Fortunately, organizations can ensure high levels of data availability by partnering with a reliable data center that offers quality uptime assurance. More reliable than pure cloud providers and far more versatile than an on-premises site, data centers offer the power, tools, and flexibility that organizations need to protect their data and get the most out of it. As companies continue to consider what options make the most sense for IT infrastructure, most of them will surely come to see data centers as the optimal solution for their many challenges.

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