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How Data Center Agility Can Help Avoid Downtime

By: Blair Felter on May 1, 2019

When a company makes the decision to colocate servers with a data center, it wants to know that it will be able to access its mission-critical data and applications when it needs them most. While scrutinizing a facility’s service level agreement (SLA) to evaluate its uptime guarantee is certainly important, companies should also make an effort to assess the data center’s operations and infrastructure as well. Facilities dedicated to data center agility are more likely to have strategies in place to avoid downtime events and deliver on their uptime SLA.

Dangers of System Downtime

System downtime is one of the most significant threats facing companies today. Many industries depend upon their ability to access data and cloud platforms to deliver services to customers and manage product supply chains, so even a brief disruption to their networks can inflict a serious financial blow. Gartner estimates that a single minute of system downtime costs companies an average of $5,600 in terms of lost sales, missed opportunities, and reduced productivity. For larger enterprises, however, the costs can run much higher.

Aside from the very real and immediate economic impact of downtime, repeated downtime events can erode a company’s brand reputation. When customers begin to view their products and services as unreliable, they are unlikely to return. More importantly, these dissatisfied customers often share their negative experiences with others, bolstering a bad reputation that companies must work very hard to overcome in order to restore consumer trust.

What is Data Center Agility?

Avoiding system downtime, then, is vital for organizations looking to build sustainable success. Fortunately, data centers can help them to establish a reputation for reliable service and consistent server uptime with strategies that emphasize operational agility.

Data center agility can be defined in many ways, but it’s most useful to think of it as the ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and respond to anticipated opportunities or threats. Threats to a facility’s uptime SLA can come from many directions, so data center operations must implement flexible processes that allow personnel to respond dynamically to new situations as they arise.

Agility isn’t a singular metric or quality so much as a philosophy that encourages a continual evaluation of how a data center operates. Rather than establishing and clinging to a status quo, an agile facility is always looking for ways to improve efficiency, optimize services, and enhance data center redundancy. It identifies potential uptime SLA threats and takes proactive steps to avoid them before they can cause a problem.

Visibility is Vital

Data center agility is made possible by having actionable data available to inform decisions and responses. Without historical trends and metrics that provide a comprehensive picture of a facility’s infrastructure, data center managers are flying blind. They need information about traffic patterns, power consumption, cooling performance, and network latency in order to understand where potential uptime SLA threats might come from and identify infrastructure vulnerabilities that may lead to an outage.

Modern data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software and business intelligence platforms (like vXchnge’s award-winning in\site, which customers can even access over a mobile app) provide real-time data on infrastructure health and performance. With new innovations in machine learning and AI software, many facilities are already implementing systems to automate and optimize key infrastructure elements while strengthening data center redundancy. This frees up data center personnel to target more specific issues that require greater attention. When a problem develops that could lead to system downtime, automated programs can take immediate action to resolve the event or alert data center personnel. Armed with real-time data, technicians can make better, faster decisions to keep systems up and running.

Remote Hands Response

If having accurate data is one component of data center agility, having a qualified and effective remote hands team in place is the second necessity. While many processes are being handed over to autonomous systems, there’s no substitute for having a well-trained data center remote hands team at the ready to resolve any problems that develop. In a colocation data center, these teams operate as an extension of the customers’ IT departments. They provide a rapid response to potential system downtime causes by monitoring equipment, testing software, and assessing cybersecurity.

Data center remote hands teams further promote data center agility by preparing for a wide array of threats. They perform frequent load testing of systems and maintain a high level of readiness with fire drills that give them a better understanding of the data center’s infrastructure and the specific needs of varied customer deployments. When a real downtime event does occur, this knowledge allows them to spring into action quickly and develop solutions that get customer servers up and running as quickly as possible. Without these teams in place, colocation customers would be reliant upon their own IT departments to physically travel to a facility to address issues in an unfamiliar environment, which would likely extend system downtime durations.

By adopting a philosophy of data center agility, colocation facilities can respond to potential problems quickly and take proactive steps that optimize systems to preserve its uptime SLA. Implementing software platforms that generate real-time, actionable data is only the first step of this process. Coupled with well-trained remote hands teams, this information can provide a more comprehensive picture of the data center environment that helps keep servers up and running consistently.

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