Understanding the Tier Rating System Behind Data Centers

If you’ve done any research on data centers, particularly colocation centers, you’ve likely come across Uptime Institute’s rating system — which have been guiding standards in the industry for more than 20 years.

The Institute awards Tier ratings ranging from I to IV based on a number of complex factors, with the Tier IV rating qualifying the data center as a “fault tolerant site infrastructure,” compared to a Tier I rating for a basic site infrastructure.

When seeking a colocation center, it’s important to understand these ratings as they can give you some guidance on uptime, which determines the amount of time the data center is expected to be fully operational.

Understanding the Tier Rating System Behind Data CentersAlthough uptime is only part of the rating, a facility with a Tier IV rating must meet a much higher standard of only experiencing 26.3 minutes of downtime a year, compared to 1,730.4 minutes of downtime for a Tier I facility, 1,362.2 minutes for a Tier II facility, and 94.7 minutes for a Tier III facility.

Most data centers fall under Tier II or Tier III categories. Fewer qualify to be a Tier IV facility, which requires a far more intensive infrastructure to achieve the high levels of uptime. Other features of a Tier IV facility include:

  • Hardened mission-critical systems
  • Fully redundant subsystems and critical components with concurrent maintainability
  • Fully fault-electrical, storage and distribution networks in the facility
  • Independent dual-powered cooling systems

Uptime Institute’s ratings started in the mid-1990s as a white paper, Tier Classifications Define Site Infrastructure Performance. The intent was to outline standards for the design and investment of data centers. Since then, the ratings have been helping data centers achieve high levels of quality to ensure uptime.

The Uptime Institute issues two forms of Tier certifications, one setting standards for design documents and the other for constructed facilities. According to its specifications, the tier certification only refers to the physical topology of the data centers’ infrastructure that directly impacts computer operations.

Lifeline Data Centers, which has facilities in Indiana, consistently strives for high levels of quality, compliance and efficiency. Our power delivery and mechanical systems are designed, built, and operated in conformity with the TIA-942 2012-A Rated-IV and BICSI 0002-2014 FC4 standards. That means we build and maintain all of our power and cooling infrastructure to support a minimum of 99.995% uptime all year round. Contact us to schedule a visit or consultation to learn more about our facilities.

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Rich Banta

Rich Banta

Managing Member at Lifeline Data Centers
Rich is responsible for Compliance and Certifications, Data Center Operations, Information Technology, and Client Concierge Services. Rich has an extensive background in server and network management, large scale wide-area networks, storage, business continuity, and monitoring. Rich is a former CTO of a major health care system. Rich is hands-on every day in the data centers. He also holds many certifications, including: CISA – Certified Information Systems Auditor CRISC – Certified in Risk & Information Systems Management CDCE – Certified Data Center Expert CDCDP – Certified Data Center Design Professional
Rich Banta