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What 99.99999% Network Uptime Really Means for Your Business

By: Kaylie Gyarmathy on March 28, 2019

With the mass exodus from private network infrastructure to cloud computing and colocation data centers, business leaders are always focused on finding vendors that can meet their performance requirements. One important discussion point revolves around the 9s of availability and protecting against the risk of downtime. These concerns have increasingly led many companies to turn away from public cloud solutions in favor of data centers that can offer 99.999% uptime or better.

What Do “9s” Mean, Anyway?

Every cloud service provider and data center provides its customers with a service level agreement (SLA) that stipulates (among other things) the amount of time their systems will be up and running throughout the year. This is critically important for businesses that rely upon high levels of system availability to deliver their own products and services. A good SLA should cover a variety of factors, but none are more important than uptime reliability.

Here’s where all those 9s of availability come in. Uptime reliability is generally expressed as a percentage that gets as close as possible to perfection. The more 9s of availability, the more time servers will be up and running throughout the year. An SLA downtime provision that promises 99.99% system availability, for example, is more reliable than one that promises 99.9% uptime. 

While many cloud service providers offer 99.99% uptime, this figure actually amounts to significant SLA downtime each year. To see just how much, take a look at the following breakdown: 

Uptime Percentage

(9s of availability)

Annual SLA Downtime

99.9% (3)

8.76 hrs

99.99% (4)

52.56 min

99.999% (5)

5.26 min

99.9999% (6)

31.54 sec

99.99999% (7)

3.15 sec

As you can see, the 9s of availability in an SLA downtime provision make a huge difference in service expectations. A data center that provides 99.99999% system availability is quite a step above a facility that offers 99.999% uptime.

The True Cost of an Outage

A 2015 IHS study found that losing system availability costs enterprises $700 billion a year. Gartner estimated that businesses lost an average of roughly $300,000 per hour of downtime. ITIC has conducted an annual independent survey since 2008 to measure downtimes costs. The results showed that the average cost of one hour of SLA downtime has risen by 25 to 30 percent over the years. Moreover, three in 10 enterprises indicated that an hour of SLA downtime costs their business at least $1 million.

According to ITIC’s research, 81 percent of organizations require a minimum of 99.99% system availability. At nearly 53 minutes of expected SLA downtime, those businesses are losing an average of over $260,000 a year (using Gartner’s estimate).

Of course, the exact cost of any unplanned downtime is dependent on a number of factors unique to your business and the nature of the issue. Your industry, revenues, number of people impacted and the time of day and duration of your outage will all impact how costly it will be. Businesses that handle many high-level data transactions such as banks and online retailers suffer significantly-higher losses than companies in other industries. If you lose system availability during peak traffic times, you can also expect the financial repercussions to be more costly.

SLA downtime comes with another steep cost that’s even harder to quantify – the cost of losing customers. If a customer feels that they can no longer rely on you, they’re apt to find a competitor they can depend on. While there’s no predicting how many customers you might lose from a loss of system availability, it will clearly put a dent in your bottom line.

To get an idea of what subpar SLA downtime may be costing your organization, check out vXchnge’s SLA Uptime Calculator. It breaks down just how much even a few seconds of downtime could impact revenue on a monthly basis. As you’ll see, the additional 9s of availability can make a big difference.

How to Choose a Partner that Can Meet Your Requirements

Partnering with a vendor that can deliver 99.999% uptime or better will best safeguard your network performance and minimize the impact of SLA downtime. What degree of risk are you willing to take on? Whether you feel comfortable with five or seven 9s of availability, you’ll need to know how to decipher which partners are best able to meet your uptime requirements.

Unplanned outages don’t always come crashing down during regular business hours. Having remote hands technicians on site at all times to check systems and conduct daily maintenance ensures that action can be taken swiftly to address any issues and preserve system availability. Your partner should also accept support tickets in emergency and non-emergency situations.

Responsiveness is one thing; being proactive is another. To protect against unanticipated spikes in power consumption and network bandwidth, your partner should implement proactive measures to mitigate the impact of SLA downtime. The most reliable partners harness the power of intelligent platforms (like vXchnge’s award-winning in\site) that predict your traffic and power spikes, helping to optimize load balancing and the timing of maintenance efforts to ensure system availability.

This software, as well as exciting new AI-driven tools, also informs data centers when to replace equipment, safeguarding against unexpected breaks. Integrated systems testing also helps vendors ensure that their data centers are prepared for outages in the event that they do occur, much like a fire drill. For example, a data center will shut down its main power supply to ensure that its servers continue running seamlessly on backup power. Some of the most proactive providers perform manual cleanings above and under equipment to ensure maximum system availability as well.

The more proactive measures a data center takes, the more likely they will be to deliver the uptime promised in their SLA. After considering the 9s of availability outlined, conduct your due diligence on potential vendors to assess which are most capable of meeting your needs.

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