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Data Center Tiers Explained

Posted 1 month ago

Data Center Tiers Explained: Understanding Different Data Center Tiers and Coinciding Standards

What should you expect from a Tier 3 data center? How does that differ from what is required of a Tier 1 data center or a Tier 4? Data center tier standards create a sense of consistency of what can be expected from a data center’s capabilities and level of service based on which tier requirements it meets. For quite some time, there have been four different tiers in the ranking system, though Tier 5 is emerging with newer, stronger requirements which we will also explain. In this article, we will explain these standards so that you have a better understanding of the data center tiers.

Tier 1

Tier 1 data centers are in the lowest tier due to the level of redundancy and downtime they have. A Tier 1 system is the simplest due to the fact that it doesn’t particularly promise a major maximum level of uptime, though this level still tends to be about 99.671%. This is due to the fact that there tends to be little to no redundancy built into the system, namely in that there is only one path for power and cooling equipment, so there can be up to 28-29 hours of downtime per year. These are typically most affordable for small businesses who may not need all of the bells and whistles that come with the upper tiers.

Tier 2

The next tier of data centers includes a slightly higher uptime: 99.741%. In other words, there are no more than 22 hours of downtime per year. This is due to the fact that, while these data centers still retain the single path model for power and cooling found in Tier 1 data centers, they do have some redundant components, such as backup cooling systems, backup generators, etc. These are not completely redundant systems, but they do offer a level of reliability not found in their Tier 1 counterparts.

Tier 3

Larger companies tend to prefer Tier 3 data centers, which have uptimes of around 99.982% (no more than 1.6 hours of downtime per year). These increased uptimes are due to the more sophisticated redundancy and infrastructure, which includes multiple power and cooling distribution paths (so if one fails, there are others to fall back on). All IT equipment also has multiple power sources in these data centers, and there are specific procedures in place to allow maintenance and repairs to be done without shutting down the system. There is usually some sort of power outage protection in place as well in Tier 3 facilities.

Tier 4

With a fully redundant infrastructure, a Tier 4 data center meets and exceeds all of the requirements of the aforementioned three tiers. Not only do these data centers, preferred by enterprise corporations, provide 99.995% uptime per year (less than 0.5 hours of downtime per year), they also are complete with at least 96-hour power outage protection. The redundancies built into Tier 4 data centers are made to ensure that the system can function normally even if one or more pieces of equipment fail. Everything is redundant, including generators, cooling units, power sources, and more, so that another system can immediately take over in the event that another fails.

Tier 5

Tier 5 is a relatively new standard in data center requirements. Tier 5 data centers must meet the same standards as Tier 4, plus several additional ones. For example, they must be able to run forever without water, have outside air pollutant detection (and be capable of initiating a protective response), have permanently installed stored energy system monitors, securable server racks, and much more. Furthermore, Tier 5 data centers are required to run on local, renewable power projects.

The Data Center Tiers Have Been Explained: What Now?

Once you understand more about data center tiers, standards, and requirements, you have to decide whether you want to design and install your own data center or choose a data center or colocation provider that will work best for your company’s needs and budget. If you are considering installing your own data center, moving your data center off-site to a colocation center, or moving servers from a colocation center back on-site, the experts at Customer 1st Communication can help. We will partner with you to help you find the right solution for your business. For a free consultation, call 855-TECH-C1C (855-832-4212) or contact us online.

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