High Availability vs Fault Tolerance

Whether you’re thinking about moving to a new data center, or you’re questioning whether or not to move away from your current in-house setup, you’ll likely already have a good idea of what you’re looking for. 

One of the key requirements that we often hear companies asking for is of course fault tolerance. If downtime is a concern for you, then this should certainly feature highly on your list of priorities. But did you know that high availability can provide a similar level of service? 

Why not take a moment to learn more about what terms like high availability and fault tolerance mean, and how these options might affect the service you’re able to provide to your own customers. 

In this article, we’ll divulge all you need to know about fault tolerance and high availability, so you can make the best decision for your business. 

What is fault tolerance?

Fault tolerance is a hugely attractive offer in any data center. In short, it means that a data center will never come up against issues that would result in service interruption, and therefore businesses will never be held back by problems relating to their chosen data center. For companies that rely on their online services to connect with customers and fulfil their obligations, fault tolerance is enormously important. But of course, like all good things, it comes at a price. 

We have more information on what makes a data center fault tolerant here, but to summarise, a fault tolerant data centers are specially designed to ensure no single point of failure. Redundancy plays a big role in this but this also means redundant components must be on standby at all times – and must be paid for whether they’re ever needed or not. This is why colocation data centers, like TRG’s, are so attractive. These facilities are built with fault tolerance in mind in orde to mitigate the risks of downtime, but without users having to pay as much as they would for their own data centers. 

When fault tolerant hardware is used to its full advantage, the changeover to new components is entirely seamless. So, if you’re a company that prides itself on the fact that it never lets customers down, then this could well be the best option for you. But bear in mind that if you are able to tolerate a small amount of downtime, you could potentially be in the position to reduce your data center budget quite considerably. 

What does high availability mean? 

The term high availability also relates to the reduction of downtime through a carefully considered setup. High availability prioritises the most important services to cut the risk of the most damaging interruptions, using shared resources to minimise downtime without escalating costs. 

If a system, component or application runs into problems in a high availability setup, software and hardware are both used to bring services back to life in what the system determines to be the quickest and most effective way. 

High availability doesn’t usually result in instant recovery like fault tolerance would, but downtime is commonly reduced to under a minute. Backup processors can also usually be used during these periods. For some companies, given that more essential services tend to be best protected, this is a good option. It’s often said to offer the best of both worlds: minimal service interruption along with more affordable pricing. 

Which is best: high availability or fault tolerance? 

We’re always asked whether fault tolerance is worth the investment, or whether high availability is just as good (and much more affordable!) The answer to this of course varies depending on your needs.

The key thing to consider is what the cost of downtime would be for your company, and how this might vary depending on when the downtime occurred. If downtime was encountered during the busiest period for your company, what would this mean in terms of lost revenue? Think about this and weigh up how your business would cope with a limited amount of downtime over the year. Once you’ve narrowed down the answers to these questions, you’ll know exactly how much your company should invest in minimising interruption. 

If your company could manage a limited amount of downtime over the year, without incurring huge costs or eye-watering amounts of lost revenue, then you may well prefer to opt for a high availability system instead. In this case, look out for high availability data centers and you’ll likely find a package that fits your company’s requirements. 

Run the numbers and you may well find that just a small amount of downtime would devastate your company. If this is the case, then we would of course recommend that you investigate fault tolerance in more detail. Look into data centers that are built with fault tolerance in mind, as these will provide the most robust protection for your company. 

Get in touch to find out more 

At TRG Datacenters, we believe that good infrastructure should be a default. Our Houston data center is designed with fault tolerance in mind meaning our customers can rely on the service we provide, and their customers are never aware of any downtime or service interruptions at all. 

If you’d like to find out more about fault tolerance and what it could mean for your company, don’t hesitate to contact our team. We’re always on hand to talk new customers through what fault tolerance is and why it matters, and we’d be happy to explain it in more detail. Give us a call to speak to a member of our team. 

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