Does My Small Business Need a Tier 1 or Tier 2 Data Center?

Are you considering taking your company’s data offsite and looking at potential colocation sites?

You are probably going to encounter a lot of talk about Data Center tiers and what tier a given site or provider may be. The Uptime Institute’s Tier system is the industry’s most universally trusted and accepted way to measure a data center’s ability to store and handle data.

The higher the tier, the better the uptime and protection you can expect. The cost will also escalate with each tier as well.

At a glance, this is how it breaks down:

  • Tier 1: About 99.671% uptime rate, with roughly 28.8 hours of downtime each year
  • Tier 2: About 99.741% uptime rate, with roughly 22 hours of downtime each year
  • Tier 3: About 99.982% uptime rate, with roughly 2 hours of downtime each year
  • Tier 4: About 99.995% uptime rate, with 26.3 minutes of downtime each year

What Tier of Data Center Does My Business Need?

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The first question you need to askwhen you’re looking to outsource your data center services is, “How much does downtime cost my business?”

For example, a 1-hour outage for Amazon was valued at an estimated $100 million. However, it’s not going to cost you that much.

Most small-to-medium sized businesses will use a Tier 1 or Tier 2 data center. A Tier 2 business would be one that doesn’t have large or complex storage needs, and a bit of downtime will not bring their business to a screeching halt.

A Tier 2 business would need a bit more from their data center. A Tier 2 center has basically the same baseline requirements as a Tier 1. However,Tier 2 offers redundant power and cooling capacity components to give you more protection.

These Tier 2 facilities have some protection in place to prevent outages, and basic maintenance can be done without interrupting the main power supply. You may consider this if you have an e-commerce part on your website, but a little bit of downtime will not really hurt you.

When Would I Go Higher Than Tier 3?

The jump from Tier 2 to 3 requires a sizable investment, so you want to ensure you’re not overspending or overprotecting.

A Tier 3 business would likely have multiple locations in multiple time zones (or even different countries), with a high volume of data that needs to be more protected and more accessible.

These centers are the most popular choice because they are concurrently maintainable. A part such as a generator or a UPS can go offline for maintenance purposes, without affecting the connected power load of the server racks in the data center.

At the same time, they also offer more redundancy with dual-powered distribution paths for power sources and cooling. This means that one path takes over for the other temporarily if failure is detected.

We hope you’ve found this helpful in mapping out what your business may need. If you do decide to go as high as Tier 3, beware centers that promise “Tier 3 Equivalent” facilities, even if they’re less expensive. This means they have not invested in certification and this could be a red flag that they may be cutting corners.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.