What are Data Centre Tiers?

The data centre tier system was designed by the Uptime Institute to classify data centres based on a number of criteria relating to uptime, fault tolerance and availability primarily. The tier system is intended to give businesses an independent understanding of how a particular data centre facility will function per their needs and what they might be able to expect from the location.

The Uptime Institute has core standards segmented as tiers, and tiers are in a range from one to five. This global standard enables organizations to determine how any data centre in the world compares to any other one. A final certification highlights a data centre's design, construction and operations.

What is a Tier 1 Data Centre?

A tier 1 data centre is the most basic kind of data centre facility. A tier 1 data centre has dedicated space for IT services and equipment outside of an office, an uninterrupted power supply, backup electrical power typically from an on-site generator and equipment to keep computing equipment cool. A tier 1 data centre also has systems, protocols and equipment in place to ensure it is up and running beyond standard office hours (i.e. nights and weekends).

What is a Tier 2 Data Centre?

A tier 2 data centre contains everything that a tier 1 data centre has, except it also includes redundant components for additional capacity. These components often include engine generators for backup power, pumps or chillers for additional and more reliable equipment cooling, and dedicated UPS modules for more reliable electricity free of sags and power spikes.

What is a Tier 3 Data Centre?

A tier 3 data centre includes everything found in a tier 2 data centre, except it has systems, protocols and equipment in place to allow staff to make upgrades, fixes and/or changes without having to shut anything down. Because everything is concurrently available, teams can make any changes as needed without interrupting services to customers/end users.

What is a Tier 4 Data Centre?

A tier 4 data centre has everything found in a tier 3 data centre, except it also includes fault tolerance mechanisms. The idea here is that the data centre can stop and prevent certain issues from ever arising in the first place. The goal of a tier 4 data centre is to provide continuous support and services no matter what, and is the highest classification provided by the Uptime Institute.

What is a Tier 5 Data Centre?

A tier 5 certification is designed to denote a facility that meets the highest possible standards in the market today regarding uptime and resiliency. The tier 5 designation was initially developed by colocation and cloud provider Switch in 2017, and is technically separate from the four core tiers designated by the Uptime Institute.

What is the Best Tier?

According to the Uptime Institute, no one tier is considered "better" than the others. Rather, they note that businesses should choose a data centre that meets their specific needs around cost, availability, etc.

What is the Uptime Institute?

The Uptime Institute describes itself as an independent advisory organisation designed to provide third-party guidance and oversight to the data centre industry. Part of its core mission includes overseeing data centres and assigning certifications, so that data centre end users have verifiable guidance when deciding which facility to use. Like 451 Research, The Uptime Institute is a division of The 451 Group.

How are Tiers Assigned?

To determine which tier a data centre falls under, facility management submits site plans and blueprints - otherwise known as Tier Certification of Design Documents - to the Uptime Institute. Once this step is completed, representatives from the Uptime Institute to go on site to see firsthand how the facility runs and the extent to which the actual, built facility aligns with initial planning documentation.

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