Who's to Blame When IT Breaks?

Assessing fault in data center incidents could pit internal IT operations staffers against contractors and vendors.

There's always a reason why things break in data centers, and the powers that be can usually find someone to blame -- whether that someone is an IT operations staff member, an OEM, a systems integrator or a third-party service provider.

Often, the offender leaves clear fingerprints, such as a mislabeled component or a process that wasn't updated. Some incidents are clearly due to the oversights of multiple parties.

Uptime Institute, a professional group whose membership includes data center managers from many industries, has collected and studied incident data for almost 20 years and concludes that the majority of problems are caused by outside parties like contractors or vendors, with a smaller but still sizeable percentage being the fault of internal IT staffers.

Since 1994, Uptime has collected data on some 5,000 abnormal incidents, which it defines as events in which a piece of equipment or infrastructure component did not perform as expected. The incident reports are submitted voluntarily by Uptime members.

Uptime said its analysis found that the percentage of abnormal incidents attributable to operations staff was 34% in 2009, followed by 41% in 2010, and 40% last year.

Third-party operators that work on a customer's data center or that supply equipment to it, such as manufacturers, vendors, factory representatives, installers and integrators, were found responsible for 50% to 60% of the incidents reported from 2009 to 2011.

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