Three Ways to Mitigate Data Center Disruptions with Maintenance Flexibility

Posted by Michael Lahoud on Thu, Oct 24, 2013 @ 01:40 PM
On an early evening across the United States, thousands of households attempt to use a major airline’s Web-based booking system to schedule flights. Time and time again, the customers receive a message that the transaction is unable to be completed. The reason? All online booking capabilities have been frozen. The result for the airline? Revenue has melted away.
The airline questions its outsourced data center facility: Why? How? The answer is not a business-friendly one: A forewarned electrical storm caused a company-wide service outage at exactly the same time as the airline’s scheduled maintenance. If only the maintenance had been postponed until there was a forecast for calmer skies. Michael Lahoud discusses the way Stream Data Centers works to mitigate risk with outsourced data systems to ensure reliability. 
In the formative years of data center outsourcing, service outages were a big concern. Over the past two decades, the industry has continuously improved mission-critical IT performance, and many providers now employ redundant systems—dual water supplies for cooling equipment, back-up electrical feeds, and other safeguards—to ensure maximum uptimes, even under extreme conditions.
“We’re well past fidelity issues as a major concern,” explains Todd Hintze, managing partner of Everest Group, a consulting firm that advises clients on outsourcing relationships. Yet enterprises still need to mitigate the chance of disruptions from scheduled maintenance.
1. Plan for business continuity
Rare occurrences beyond a provider’s control, such as the accidental cutting of an electrical conduit during a street reconstruction, or the reality of hurricanes, floods and other natural acts, which can all potentially cause a service disruption.
Planning for business continuity can help prevent that. Disruptions involving functions such as financial trading, airline booking, and others dealing with heavy data volumes could result in substantial financial losses for the outsourcing client and damage reputations.
That’s why most large organizations house mission-critical data systems in at least two geographically dispersed locations so that if one site fails, the other takes over immediately.
Although mirroring crucial data systems in two dispersed locations is a sound strategy, there are times when even this arrangement is prone to vulnerabilities. Every data center has to perform scheduled maintenance at regular intervals. These routine events usually cause little concern. “Many maintenance activities, such as dumping cache, are not going to cause an outage,” Hintze points out. But some maintenance functions do require systems to temporarily go offline, and these events are chinks in the armor. 
2. Outsource data systems carefully
Anytime a crucial system goes offline—even if it is mirrored at another location—there is potential for a natural calamity or human-caused incident to result in a nightmare scenario. What if, say, a severe storm causes an outage at the mirrored site when the other site is offline for maintenance? This worst-case outcome makes some executives think twice about outsourcing critical data systems. “The fear is that I don’t get the control and the associated outage is out of my control,” Hintze says.
Data center outsourcers that serve many clients under one roof have limited flexibility in scheduling maintenance activities. The more clients they have, the more difficult it is to arrange these events at the most convenient times for every client. Clients may have little choice over when maintenance is performed.
This can be disconcerting if the scheduled maintenance occurs during a seasonal spike in a client’s needs, Hintze says. If it occurs right after a company’s Super Bowl commercial airs and thousands of potential new consumers visit the company’s website only to encounter error messages, the potential loss of new business is great. Or, if financial systems go down during monthly, quarterly, or yearly closings, you’ve got a major headache.
3. Postpone maintenance if needed
An outsourcing provider that serves no more than three clients under one roof has plenty of flexibility to schedule maintenance at the best times for all clients. This is the way Stream Data Centers operates. It’s much easier for Stream to arrange maintenance tasks during times when a rare, catastrophic event leading to a service outage would do the least harm.
What’s more, if for example, a major hurricane was forecast for an area housing your mirrored data center, Stream can easily postpone the maintenance until after the megastorm runs its course.
Fewer clients lead to greater flexibility and ability to mitigate risk. And that means executives can have greater peace of mind that their systems remain protected and productive.
Reclaim your peace of mind about reducing service disruptions. Tour Stream’s fully commissioned Private Data Center model to learn more or watch the video tour.

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