Digital infrastructure outages get more costly

Power failures and human error are key culprits of data center and infrastructure outages of late, according to the Uptime Institute.

Data center / enterprise networking
Timofeev Vladimir / Shutterstock

Digital infrastructure outages have gotten more and more expensive over the course of the past several years, according to a report from the Uptime Institute. Meanwhile, the total number of major outages has remained the same—meaning that, on average, an increasingly large amount of money is getting spent on recovering from each disruption.

The proportion of individual outages resulting in losses of over $100,000 is increasing, according to the report, up to 47% of all outages in 2021 from 40% in the previous year. The institute said that, while it doesn't calculate an average overall cost per outage, overall trends are toward more costs being incurred by the average outage.

One in five businesses reported having at least one "severe" outage in the past three years, according to the report, which means outages that created serious financial losses, bodily harm, reputational damage or compliance breaches. Four in five respondents to the institute's survey said that they had experienced some type of outage—severe or not—in the past three years, which is at the high end of the normal range, according to the report.

Most outages caused by networking problems

The largest proportion of outages overall were caused by networking-related problems, the report noted, which may be the product of large-scale moves to cloud technology, SDN (software defined networking) and other new networking-dependent architectures.

However, power-related issues—most notably, those caused by uninterruptible power supply failures—tended to cause the most serious problems, with power problems accounting for 43% of "significant" outages in the past three years.

Third-party service providers saw the most service outages during the survey period, according to the report. Cloud and hosting providers, colocation vendors and telecom companies accounted for nearly two-thirds of all public outages that the institute has tracked in the past seven years, with that number rising to 70% for 2021.

A lot of the issues, whichever part of the infrastructure they effect, are the product of human error, according to the institute. Almost 40% of businesses, over the past three years, saw serious outages caused by human error—most of the time, as a result of processes and procedures that were suboptimnal, or not followed.

Andy Lawrence, founding member and executive director of the Uptime Intelligence Institute, said that, directly or indirectly, the increasingly complex architecture of modern IT is to blame for high outage rates.

"The lack of improvement in overall outage rates is partly the result of the immensity of recent investment in digital infrastructure, and all the associated complexity that operators face as they transition to hybrid, distributed architectures," he said, in the institute's announcement of the report. "In time, both the technology and operational practices will improve, but at present, outages remain a top concern for customers, investors, and regulators."

The report is based on several sources, ranging from public reports of major outages to surveys to databases of abnormal incidents maintained by the institute.

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