Is Your Data Center Tier Level Certified?

18 Mar 2015 by Technology

"Do you know what level of Tier Certification your data center has? Do you know what the requirements are for each Tier as defined by the Uptime Institute? Many businesses claim that they have a Tier certification, but some of these will not have made this official or have mislabeled their current Tier level.

Understanding the Tier level is important for if you want to improve your data center's reputation.


The Uptime Institute is a consortium of companies that engages data centers in education, publications, consulting, certification and conferences. The group was formed in 1993 and has since been widely adopted for its tier certification.
There are two types of tier certification that it offers:
Tier Certification of Design Documents
Tier Certification of Constructed Facility

What Is The Tier Certification?

The tier certification is an indication of the reliability of the data center's ability to stay operational without interruption, otherwise known as the uptime of the data center. There are four tiers of certification (I, II, III, IV). The higher the certification, the better designed and more reliable the data center is.
The certification only addresses the systems and sub-systems that support an IT environment. There are no requirements on the IT equipment itself. For instance, a malfunction of IT hardware that results in loss of service has no impact on the Tier certification. However, should there be the possibility of a power loss that is required by the IT hardware, the certification level is affected.

What Are The Four Levels Of Tier Certification?
Tier I - This indicates that a data center has the basic infrastructure for the operation of their facilities. Generally, the system will have a single path for power and cooling. At this level, the failure of one component will normally result in the system going offline.
Tier II - This is when the data center has redundancy built into its infrastructure but still relies on a single path for power and cooling. Typically this means that a failure in the power generator or chiller will result in a backup being used. But, if there is damage or a failure of the main supply line to the facility, the IT system will be shut down.
Tier III - This tier is awarded when there is sufficient infrastructure to allow scheduled maintenance activities to be completed without interfering with the general operation of the data center. This system has redundant components and distribution paths for cooling and power. However, there is only one active set at any time. There is still a risk of outages when unplanned infrastructure failures occur.
Tier IV - This is when the infrastructure of the data system is considered to be fault tolerant. The redundant components and distribution paths are generally isolated from one another. Should a fault occur in the system, there should be an automatic shift from the damaged system to a backup.

Data center owners can also seek to have their management and operations methodologies, building characteristics and site location awarded a Bronze, Silver or Gold Certification within their own Tier. This is purely optional but can be a good reputation booster.

The Importance Of Tier Certification

Having your data center Tier certified will help solidify your reputation and give end users confidence in your services. Because the Tier certification is conducted by a professional third party, the Uptime Institute, it offers a reliable recommendation for your business.

Tier certification by the Uptime Institute is a good way to establish your data center's ability to provide a consistent service to your clients. The higher the level of tier the better the performance and reliability of the data center to remain active, even if there is a fault in the supporting infrastructure. The only way to gain a Tier certification is to have it awarded to your data center from the Uptime Institute and this can be further enhanced with a Bronze, Silver or Gold award."

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