Data Center Tiers

Data centers offer solutions to business demands in the sphere of hosting information and data. Without them, an organization would have an impossible task of storing crucial information that's needed for the proper operation of their websites.

Data center tiers are rankings that are given to the numerous data centers that explain data center performance, security, and expected downtime. Lower tiers are cheaper but also offer only basic operational capacity, making them perfect for small businesses.

The highest-tiered data centers feature top-of-the-line fault tolerance, uptime guarantees, multiple power sources, and extensive data sets - but they're also expensive.

In any case, network sharing protocols such as SMBs have recently become even more vulnerable than before, often ending up as cyberattack targets. Nearly half of all businesses do not have the finances nor the capabilities to recover from a data breach.

You need to know where you want that data to go and be hosted as an organization. Data center infrastructure is also a key point to consider, but security and performance should be your main focus.

This article will help you understand the reason for data center tier classification and why choosing the right data center is a necessity when it comes to protecting your data.

How are the Data Center Tier Standards Determined?

The Uptime Institute provides each data center with a tier certification based on the most important factors that determine how efficient a data center is. The Uptime Institute is an independent organization whose sole purpose is to evaluate data centers and their operational sustainability. These key factors are:

Performance-based data center tier certification

The main factor that the Uptime Institute uses to determine data center tier ratings is performance. As long as the data center uses redundant components, offers fault tolerance, and provides availability - it will be evaluated and ranked.

Impartiality to brands and vendors

The Uptime Institute does not incorporate technology brands in creating data center tier levels no matter how reputable and 'perfect' the brand may be. Data centers are analyzed purely based on their performance and capabilities.

Impartiality in data center technology use

New data hosting technologies come and go which is one of the reasons why the Uptime Institute does not require any specific technology to be used in order for the data centers to get ranked.

The Four Data Center Tiers Explained

There are four existing data center tiers that are assigned to data centers to show organizations what kind of performance and efficiency to expect. They are simply called Tier I, Tier II, Tier III, and Tier IV.

Once you see the uptime percentages and other metrics, you'll think that the data center tiers' differences are negligible. However, it all adds up so it's very important for organizations to choose the right tier level data center providers for their needs.

Data Center Tier Uptimes

Tier I Data Center (a basic capacity data center)

Tier 1 data centers do not provide meaningful performance, security, or uptime sufficient enough for medium-sized or large organizations. They are ideal for small organizations but even then, they may not fulfill the needs and expectations of said businesses.

Firstly, the main issue with the lowest data center tier level is the lack of respectable uptime. The annual downtime of 28.8 hours is incredibly high; pair that with the lack of proper IT equipment for preventing major system failure and it's a recipe for disaster.

However, if the organization is very small in size and generally doesn't need exceptional service (basic backups, around-the-clock operations, protection of critical components, and more), they are a good choice thanks to their low price.

On the other hand, if an organization is planning to expand in the near future, the Tier 1 data center will simply not suffice.

Tier II Data Center (data center with redundant components)

A Tier 2 data center is pretty similar to Tier 1 data centers with the main difference being redundancy levels. Tier II data centers have the same power input as Tier 1, but they come with some additional component protection and backup fail-safes.

Some of these fail-safes include pumps, chillers, energy storage & energy generators, and UPS modules. While the difference in performance between Tier II and Tier I data centers is marginal (22.7 hours to 28.8 hours, respectively), a Tier II data center is more versatile and reliable than a Tier I.

The cost also doesn't differ by much which is why Tier II is more popular among small businesses since the redundant capacity components are slightly better than what a Tier 1 data center can offer.

Tier III Data Center (blanket redundancy)

Thanks to the Tier III data centers' impressive redundancy and multiple distribution paths, an organization can feel at ease having their data hosted by these data centers. This is also where hosting data and information becomes more serious and SMBs begin to make their appearance.

In essence, a Tier 3 data center has twice the operational capacity of a Tier 2 and comes with an impressive rise in uptime compared to Tier 2's. A Tier 3 data center is fault-tolerant and features a downtime of just 1.6 hours.

However, the biggest benefit of going for Tier 3 instead of the lower tiers is the existence of dedicated cooling equipment and multiple paths regarding power. All of this means that you get superb 72 hours of continuous power supply thanks to all the components that are meant to activate in case of failure.

The downside of the Tier 3 data center is its reliance on external components for certain systems, meaning something happening outside the data center could cause issues, making it somewhat less fault-tolerant than Tier IV data centers.

Tier IV Data Center (completely fault-tolerant)

As far as data center tiers go, a Tier 4 data center can do just about anything you want. Most businesses nowadays require top-of-the-line power and cooling capacity, multiple UPS systems, and vast interconnection solutions to keep the servers afloat at all times.

A Tier 4 data center has 99.995% availability annually which translates to just 0.4 hours (or 24 minutes!) of downtime. On top of that, all the capabilities of a Tier 4 data center are enhanced and expanded compared to a Tier 3.

For one, they come with a fully redundant infrastructure that guarantees continuous data center operations. In essence, they have a fully mirrored system that can take over the functions of the main one should something go wrong.

Every component of a Tier 4 data center is supported by two UPS systems, two generators, and two power and cooling systems. Lastly, they offer an uninterrupted power supply that can last for 96 hours if needed. The IT operations of an organization or business are completely unaffected by any outages that may take place.

They are the most expensive option of the bunch but customer satisfaction is most often kept at a high level. So, if you're looking for the best data hosting or cloud provider with impeccable performances - the Tier 4 data center is the ideal choice.

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