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Data center tier levels refer to a data center's ability to maintain functionality during various kinds of failures, such as power outages. Higher tier levels indicate more sustainability for data center operations and fault-tolerant systems that will allow for uninterrupted use during certain kinds of emergencies or crises.
As more advanced technology has led to greater evaluation of fault tolerance for data systems and other business processes, the global IT community has defined data center reliability by referring to up to four tiers for data center operations. Groups such as the Uptime Institute, a global research organization, have defined these tiers and provided certifications for data center systems.
In a Tier 1 data center, system processes are carried out through a single path in a nonredundant system that does not offer fault tolerance. In a Tier 2 system, there may be some redundant features, for example, in climate and energy source support. Tier 3 systems will typically have more comprehensive protections for power outages and will have what’s called N+1 redundancy, which is a reliable backup power system. The highest level, Tier 4, will involve fully fault-tolerant systems around energy supply, storage and data distribution and backup power sources for climate control systems. These specifications for data center sustainability help to create a consistent standard in the business world where vendors, clients and others typically refer to these various tier levels when planning, creating and implementing data centers in individual corporate or small business environments.