Unplanned data center outages still present a difficult and costly challenge for organizations, according to the results of a survey of U.S.-based data center professionals completed by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by Emerson Network Power. In fact, data center outages are so dreaded that 84% of respondents stated that they would rather walk barefoot over hot coals than have their data center go down. A report detailing the results is available online.

This is the second time Emerson Network Power has teamed with the Ponemon Institute to examine the root causes and frequency of unplanned data center outages. The first study, conducted in 2010, revealed that organizations were underestimating the impact unplanned outages were having on their operations. This year’s report, which analyzes survey responses from 584 U.S.-based professionals involved in data center operations, finds that this is changing, and in some respects, the ability to prevent data center outages is improving.

An overwhelming majority of survey respondents reported having experienced an unplanned data center outage in the past 24 months (91%). This is a slight decrease from the 95% of respondents in the 2010 study who reported unplanned outages. Regarding the frequency of outages, respondents experienced an average of two complete data center outages during the past two years. Partial outages, or those limited to certain racks, occurred six times in the same timeframe. The average number of device-level outages, or those limited to individual servers was the highest at 11. These durations have declined slightly from 2010 findings (complete: 2.5, partial: 7, device level: 10).

Eighty-three percent of respondents said they knew the root cause of the unplanned outage. The top three most frequently cited root causes of outages remain unchanged from the 2010 report: UPS battery failure (55%), accidental EPO/human error (48%) and UPS capacity exceeded (46%). Thirty-four percent of respondents cited cyber attacks, which is up from 15% in 2010, while 30% cited weather-related reasons, which is up from 20% in 2010. Fifty-two percent believe all or most of the unplanned outages could have been prevented.

Emerson Network Power also issued an infographic summarizing the practices of high-performance data centers and the findings of the study. To download the research report and a podcast on the study, or to register for the upcoming webinar, “Get the Lowdown on Data Center Downtime,” visit the company's website.