Your data center’s tier determines the performance and availability you can expect.

Key Takeaways:

  • Data centers are designated into four tiers established by the Uptime Institute
  • Downtime, availability, and the equipment used determine the ranking
  • Understanding your data center’s tier helps you set realistic expectations
  • You can then make adjustments and upgrades if your performance isn’t good enough

The data center is a critical space within an office or other business because your organization stores its most vital data in this location. As a result, you’ll want to do everything in your power to keep the room safe and functioning at full capacity to ensure your employees have access to this information at all times.

Optimally designing your data center puts you on the right track. This design ensures proper airflow and that the cooling system can keep the room at an ideal temperature. 

You’ll also want to take data center quality standards into account. There’s an ISO standard for data centers and an organization called Uptime Institute that gives tier classifications based on the center’s availability and performance. 

Learning about data center certifications ensures you know what to expect from your setup and helps your organization make changes when the equipment and their performance are outside your ideal standards. Here’s a look at Uptime Institute’s four tiers and what each of them means.

Tier I data centers

A data center that receives Tier I certification is a basic facility with the infrastructure to support an office building’s IT department. These systems typically have an uninterruptible power supply for sags, spikes, and outages and a generator to cover short power issues. 

A Tier I data center also has a designated space within the building and a dedicated cooling system that runs around the clock to prevent the equipment from overheating. These systems are good enough to protect the data center from human-caused accidents but don’t have the power to offer protection against unexpected power failures. 

A Tier I system averages 99.671% uptime with only 28.8 hours of downtime per year, so it’s a highly reliable option. However, it’s necessary to shut the center down when performing maintenance because of the lack of redundancy, which could cause problems in larger offices with many people working on projects at any given time.

Tier II facilities

Tier II data centers have many of the same components as Tier I facilities, except they add redundancies to provide better maintenance opportunities. They also typically include features like engine generators, chillers, UPS modules, heat rejection equipment, and fuel cells. 

The result is a system your IT team can repair without shutting the entire system down. The team can remove specific components and replace them on the fly, limiting your downtime throughout the process.

However, it’s worth noting that an unexpected outage will affect the entire system because there isn’t enough redundancy to keep it functional. So, if a large-scale shutdown occurs in your area, the Tier II data center will likely encounter problems.

Overall, a Tier II data center has 99.749% uptime and only 22 hours of downtime per year. The ability to perform maintenance gives it a clear advantage over Tier I facilities, however.

Tier III options

Redundancies separate Tier III data centers from their Tier I and Tier II counterparts. These components allow the center to stay active in nearly any scenario, so no shutdowns are required when maintenance or replacements are necessary. 

In short, a Tier III center is similar to a Tier II center, except additional components are added to ensure the system remains up and going during an unexpected outage or when significant repairs to the system are needed.

A Tier III system boasts 99.982% uptime and no more than 1.6 hours of downtime per year. This specification is ideal for larger businesses that require constant access to their data. It’s also worth noting that Tier III data centers are N+1 fault-tolerant, which provides at least 72 hours of power outage protection during a significant local disaster.

What Tier IV means

A Tier IV data center is the most complicated of the bunch because it features multiple independent and isolated systems that provide redundant capacity and distribution paths. As a result, if one goes down, there’s a separate source to keep the system active. 

This separation ensures that a single event can’t compromise the entire system and prevents planned and unplanned events from disrupting the data center. However, it’s worth noting that if one redundant component is shut down for maintenance, it creates a riskier environment for the rest of the center.

The gist is that a Tier IV facility adds further fault tolerance to a Tier III system. When a component fails, another path prevents IT disruptions within the office. This feature makes Tier IV centers ideal for large corporations with operations all over the world because they can’t afford even a small outage at any time. 

Tier IV facilities require compatible equipment and continuous cooling, too, so the planning stage will require some effort if you go in this direction. The numbers speak for themselves, though, as Tier IV data centers have 99.995% uptime and average 26.3 minutes of downtime annually. They also feature 96-hour power outage protection and 2N+1 fully redundant components.

Getting the data center you need

The data center certifications you require to create your ideal space will come down to your business’s needs. Generally, small and medium-sized companies go with Tier I or Tier II data centers because they’re more economical, and the mass-scale redundancies aren’t necessary for their day-to-day operations. However, a professional must install the components, regardless of your choice. 

Universal Electrical can assist as you build, renovate, or relocate your data center. We can also install uninterruptible power supplies and generators and connect the chillers and cooling systems necessary to keep your data center online. Contact Universal Electrical for more information on our data center services or to receive a free quote.