In June 2022, The Uptime Institute published its latest Outage Analysis, an annual report that looks at the frequency and severity of data centre outages. The report concluded that the financial consequences and overall disruption from outages are steadily increasing.
Cost and frequency of outages has risen
The report found that one in five organisations had experienced a “serious” or “severe” outage, involving significant financial losses, reputational damage, compliance breaches, and in some severe cases, loss of life, in the past three years. This data is also evident in the Uptime’s 2022 Data Centre Resiliency Survey, which found that 80% of data centre managers and operators have experienced some type of outage in the past three years.
It also showed that over 60% of failures resulted in at least $100,000 in total losses, up substantially from 39% in 2019. The share of outages that cost upwards of $1 million increased from 11% to 15% over that same period.
43% of data centre outages are caused by power failures
Crucially, power-related outages accounted for 43% of outages that are classified as significant (causing downtime and financial loss). The report also states that the single biggest cause of power incidents is uninterruptible power supply (UPS) failures.
Paul Brickman, Commercial Director at Crestchic Loadbanks, which offers testing solutions for the back-up power solutions used in data centres, commented, “We’re undoubtedly seeing increased demand for load testing equipment from the data centre market. That is, in part, due to market growth, but a significant proportion is from data centre operators who are becoming more aware of the dangers of not testing their back up power systems. As national and local grid resilience continues to cope with energy transition factors including brown-outs and frequency instability, failing to test means flirting with complete system failure. For critical infrastructure like data centres, where downtime is both extremely costly and worryingly commonplace, it is just not worth the risk.”
The importance of testing back-up generators
As a business, our perception from working in the industry is that most data centres have robust strategies in place to deal with power outages. Both generators and Uninterruptible Power Systems (UPS) are universally accepted as a piece of critical business infrastructure.
Problems arise when there is no regular testing schedule. Occasionally powering the generator up, or testing for a minimal period, is often thought to be sufficient. In reality, all back-up generators should be tested regularly for real-world emergency conditions using a resistive-reactive 0.8pf load bank.
As well as ensuring that the generator works efficiently under real operational conditions, the testing will also show how a system will cope with a voltage drop in its regulator. This is vital for data centres, where multiple generators might be operated in parallel. In this type of application, a problem with one generator could have a detrimental effect on the others. Over and above the generator’s operating performance, a safe system load test will ensure that all switching control works when called up, such as automatic transfer switches and local circuit protection. Regularly testing these systems ensures optimum performance in a real emergency.
Outages a top priority for customers, investors and regulators
In a press release, Andy Lawrence, founding member and executive director of Uptime Institute Intelligence, is quoted as saying “Digital infrastructure operators are still struggling to meet the high standards that customers expect and service level agreements demand – despite improving technologies and the industry’s strong investment in resiliency and downtime prevention.” Continuing to add, “Outages remain a top concern for customers, investors, and regulators.”
Properly planned and implemented, preventative maintenance strategies can minimise the likelihood of unscheduled breakdowns and outages, effectively negating the potential risk of costly commercial, reputational and legal issues.
For more information about the importance of testing back up power in data centre environments, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org