Survey: UPS Issues Are Top Cause of Outages

Problems with UPS equipment and configuration are the most frequently cited cause of data center outages, according to a survey of more than 450 data center professionals.

Rich Miller

October 13, 2010

3 Min Read
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This chart shows the perception gap between the executive suite and data center staff on key issues (click for larger version).

Problems with UPS equipment and configuration are the most frequently cited cause of data center outages, according to a survey of more than 450 data center professionals. The survey by the Ponemon Institute, which was sponsored by Emerson Network Power, also highlights a disconnect between data center staff and the executive suite about uptime readiness.

The National Survey on Data Center Outages surveyed 453 individuals in U.S. organizations who have responsibility for data center operations, who were asked about the frequency and root causes of unplanned data center outages, as well as corporate efforts to avert downtime. Ninety five percent of participants reported an unplanned data center outage in the past two years, with most citing inadequate practices and investments as factors in the downtime.

Here are the most frequently cited causes for downtime:

  • UPS battery failure (65 percent)

  • Exceeding UPS capacity (53 percent)

  • Accidental emergency power off (EPO)/human error (51 percent)

  • UPS equipment failure (49 percent)

There were signs that the ongoing focus on cost containment was being felt in the data center. Fifty nine percent of respondents agreed with the statement that "the risk of an unplanned outage increased as a result of cost constraints inside our data center."

"As computing demands and energy costs continue to rise amidst shrinking IT budgets, companies are seeking tactics – like cutting energy consumption – to cut costs inside the data center," said Peter Panfil, vice president and general manager, Emerson Network Power’s AC Power business in North America. "This has led to an increased risk of unplanned downtime, with companies not fully realizing the impact these outages have on their operations."

Perception Gap
The focus on UPS issues isn't unexpected, given the role of uninterruptible power supplies in data center power infrastructure. It's also consistent with Emerson's position as a leading vendor of UPS equipment. But the survey by Ponemon, which is known for its surveys on security and privacy, also points to a perception gap between senior-level and rank-and-file respondents regarding data center outages.

Sixty percent of senior-level respondents feel senior management fully supports efforts to prevent and manage unplanned outages, compared to just 40 percent of supervisor-level employees and below. Senior-level and rank-and-file respondents also disagreed regarding how frequently their facilities experienced downtime, with 56 percent of the senior executives believing unplanned outages are infrequent, while just 45 percent of rank-and-file respondents agreed to the same statement.

"When you consider that downtime can potentially cost data centers thousands of dollars per minute, our survey shows a serious disconnect between senior-level employees and those in the data center trenches,” said Larry Ponemon, Ph.D., chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. "This sets up a challenge for data center management to justify to senior leadership the need to implement data center systems and best practices that increase availability and ensure the functioning of mission-critical applications. It’s imperative that these two groups be on the same page in terms of the severity of the problem and potential solutions.”

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