Top Causes of Data Center Outages

GCN article on causes of unplanned data center outages has some interesting stats. The article cites a recent study conducted by Ponemon (not Pokemon) Institute. The study polled 63 data centers in the United States that had experienced outages in the past 12 months. Unplanned downtime is, of course, a top concern for many companies due to the ever increasing cost associated with such events.

According to the study, the average cost of a data center outage rose to $740,357 in 2015 — an increase of 38 percent since 2010. The increase in the maximum downtime cost ($2,409,991) was even greater, climbing 81 percent over that same time period.

The most expensive cost was business disruption, followed by lost revenue and end-user productivity. IT productivity, detection, recovery, ex-post activities and equipment were next. In light of that hierarchy of losses, the public sector had the lowest cost ($476,000) for unplanned outages. Financial services, a heavily data-dependent industry, suffered the highest ($994,000) costs. 

Here are the top causes of data center outages from the report:

  1. UPS – 25%: Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) failure continues to be the No.1 cause of unplanned data center outages, accounting for 25 percent of all such event
  2. Cybercrime – 22%: Cyber crimes are the fastest-growing cause of data center outages, rising from 2 percent in 2010 to 22 percent of outages in the latest study
  3. Cooling – 11%: Water, heat or air conditioning failure accounted for 11 percent of outages
  4. Weather – 10%: Weather was reported at 10 percent
  5. Generator – 6%: Generator failure at 6 percent
  6. IT Equipment – 4%: IT equipment malfunction accounted for only 4 percent of all outages

Human error was behind 22 percent of outages, the same as in 2013, indicating that no progress has been made to mitigate failures caused by workers, according to the report’s authors. However, Ponemon’s reported high rate of human-caused downtime may be worse, as other industry watchers have argued that cyber crime and UPS system failures are ultimately caused by humans.

According to a 2014 report from IBM, over 95 percent of cyber crimes had human error as a contributing factor. Its 2015 report found that 55 percent of cyber threats were from people with insider access to a organization’s systems. Human error is the No. 1 cause of outages in IDC’s recent surveys concerning the causes of data center downtime.

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