Welcome to the Fasthosts ProActive Podcast: Spill the IT. Each episode, we'll sit down with some of the amazing ProActive team and chat through their experiences of the ups and downs of IT infrastructure management in small businesses. There's always plenty to chat about.

Join our Simon Yeoman as he explains what’s critical to understand about data centres from a commercial point of view for SMBs and what our Tier IV certification uniquely delivers for our customers.

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Episode transcript:

Intro (00:04):

Welcome to the Fasthosts Proactive podcast. Spill the IT. Each episode we'll sit down with some of the amazing Proactive team and chat through their experiences of the ups and downs of IT infrastructure management in small businesses. There's always plenty to chat about.

Sian (00:22):

Hi, and welcome to the latest Fasthosts podcast where I'm here with Simon, the chief exec of Fasthosts. And, today we're going to be talking about what Tier 4 means, Tier 4 certification from the Uptime Institute and why it matters. So, Simon. Do you want to take a moment to just introduce yourself?

Simon Yeoman (00:48):

Yes. Of course. Thanks, Sian. So, I'm Simon Yeoman. I am the CEO of Fasthosts. I've been with Fasthosts for 15 years and look after both the core Fasthosts business and our proactive business, which I'm really pleased to do. So, I'm really pleased to be here.

Sian (01:04):

Excellent. The Uptime Institute developed these four tiers of certification about 25 years ago. So, they've been around for a while. For those of people who aren't as familiar with those, do you want to just talk through-

Simon Yeoman (01:18):

Yeah. Of course. As you rightly pointed out, the Uptime Institute are independent, globally recognised standard for data centres. And, as you can imagine, people that want to use data centres, it's critically important for them to provide services that they have some confidence in the services, and they understand exactly who they're dealing with and the standard of service that they're dealing with. And, in a increasingly complex data centre and cloud hosting world, it's reassuring for people to have some standards to understand the levels and quality of service that they're getting. And, as you point out, the Uptime Institute being going for in excess of 20 years. It's a global standard and they have a tiering system. And the tiering system is based on what they understand would be criteria and requirements for most operations. And that's used to establish four different tiers.


And, the first tier is very basic and it's data centre services. But, if an operation needed to do some repairs or maintenance, that would inevitably result in a loss of service, because it hasn't got enough redundancy. And there's four tiers, like I said, and Tier 2 is slightly more redundant. And in Tier 3 you have lots of redundancy of individual components. And, Tier 3 would allow you to run some maintenance as long as it was planned and that could be done on a fully redundant basis. So, if you knew you had planned maintenance to do, you could still continue your operations to your customers or your stakeholders by planning that maintenance in advance and putting the right levels of redundancy in place.


Tier 4 is fully fault tolerant, so operations are able to continue, whether it be planned repair work or planned maintenance, or whether it be emergencies, et cetera. And so Tier 4 is fully fault tolerant, from everything to do with a data centre infrastructure when it comes to the cooling, the connectivity and the power in particular, so that it's really important that there's regular connectivity and that's ...


Often to achieve Tier 4, you'd need that diverse connectivity, diverse network connectivity, but also power. Power needs to be uninterrupted and fully fault tolerant. And, that's what you require to get to Tier 4 standard. Our new data centre, which we've invested a lot of time in is Tier 4 certified. Not only the actual facility certified, but the actual design that we've specified has been signed off and approved by the Uptime Institute as Tier 4 standard.

Sian (04:10):

And, I think it's the only data centre, isn't it, in the UK that has this?

Simon Yeoman (04:13):

That's right. Last time I checked the Uptime Institute website ... And, anybody can do this. It's an independent, globally recognised standard. And I think our data centre in the Midlands, in the Worcester area, is the only one that's both certified for design and the facility as well.

Sian (04:31):

Great. That's interesting. And, I was obviously in preparation for this podcast, I was looking into Tier 4 in more detail and what that means. And, one of the interesting factoids I found was what it means on average is data centres that have a Tier 4 certification on average only have 26 minutes of downtime in a year, which I thought was pretty impressive.

Simon Yeoman (04:53):

Yeah. And, like we said, it's a fairly unique type of standard and we could get into some of the uniqueness of our design. But, for us, it's a sort of data centre standard which is normally preserved for government institutes, enterprise-based companies. And, therefore, we're very proud of that design and we're very excited to be able to bring it to our customers. I think, I haven't checked, but there are many data centres globally. I think it's probably almost 3,000 that are certified by the Uptime Institute over 100 countries and very few get to the Tier 4 standard. And, as we just covered, we're one of the very few, or the only one at the moment last time I checked, in Tier 4 design and facility in the UK.

Sian (05:46):

And, it's interesting, isn't it? Because, as you said, it is the highest standard often reserved for governments, large businesses. And, for Fasthosts. You work a lot with small to medium-sized companies. And, it's great that they have access to this type of quality and standard. And, one of the things we were talking about on the previous episode with George, was that how packages are easier. Because one of the criticisms with hyperscalers is, it's quite difficult for smaller businesses to understand the different products and services. And, George was saying that the way that you were able to set up this facility helped you do that more for small to medium-sized companies.

Simon Yeoman (06:35):

It's very modern. It's very state of art and we're very proud of our design. At the moment, we're concentrating this conversation, this podcast on Tier 4, but it's very unique in a way that it manages its environmental and sustainable impacts, its security impacts. And, as per Tier 4 status, the availability of the data centre. And, there's some uniqueness to its design. Its efficiency allows us to provide our data centre services to our customers at a more reasonable price point. And so, we are bringing enterprise-grade data centre services to small and medium-sized businesses in the UK. And, that's a very unique offering.

Sian (07:19):

Yeah. Brilliant. So, talk a little bit more about the fault tolerance and the redundancy around all components involved in the data centre.

Simon Yeoman (07:30):

So, when we look at the fault tolerance, we look at different areas. In particular, the networking and network connectivity and if you've got fully geo-redundant and are all those networking components fully redundant as well? We would then look at other areas such as cooling and power distribution. And, each of those different components need to be fully fault tolerant and have a backup, which is immediately available. And, we've been able to establish that and we're also confident that we can sustain that.


One of the uniqueness about our design is it's not one great big data centre hall. We've created different rooms, different modules within one data centre. And, that allows us to, as we grow into each module, we can take advantage of the latest technologies and the latest design principles and stay ahead of the curve, as opposed to some big data centre halls, which might be the size of a football pitch. Once you've set your design on day one, you're stuck with it whilst you fill that data centre. But, because taken a more modular-based approach, we're very confident we can maintain this level of standard and stay right up to date with the latest design, functionality, hardware capability, et cetera.

Sian (08:46):

Yeah. Because I suspect the modular approach helps you test new innovations and developments in a small area before you then roll it out?

Simon Yeoman (08:54):

It helps us test. But also, many big data centres, you have to often stick to your design on day one, and that you set your design principles, where we can slightly update our principles as we grow. As we grow our business, and we've already fully populated or almost fully populated two of our modules and we're looking to expand into modules three in module four, we'll make sure we'll be able to embrace the latest technologies and latest hardwares when we do so.

Sian (09:21):

Nice. I would imagine software-managed network infrastructure has given you a lot of advantages?

Simon Yeoman (09:28):

It does. It gives us an awful lot of advantages. It's easier to test and update. It's also better from an environmental perspective. Lots of hardware-based solutions, they require energy to be managed. But, they also, they have a carbon footprint in their production, which is something that we'll probably cover in a different podcast, but it's something that's very important to us. And, the speed and agility of development in software-based networking is something that we already take advantage of and we'll continue to do so.

Sian (10:03):

Yeah. Good. So, the infrastructure that you have, how is that creating better security, improved business resiliency?

Simon Yeoman (10:17):

So, the data centre that we're sat in now is a modern state-of-the-art, and it's hyper secure. You probably have one or two issues trying to get access to the buildings today, because of the levels of security that we implement. And, you can see from the way that we manage the perimeter and we manage access, that we are very security conscious. But, that's more physical security. We also put a lot of emphasis on the software side and the way that we manage our platforms. And, we are part of a group where we have dedicated security representatives. And, cybersecurity is something that we need to maintain and stay on top of in order to make sure that we, and we on behalf of our customers, don't get subjected to bad actors out there on the internet.

Sian (11:14):

And, I would imagine that that lends itself to maybe commercial sectors where uptime is incredibly critical to their business?

Simon Yeoman (11:24):

Yes. And, as we've covered off, Tier 4 allows you to provide a high amount of uptime, a very high amount of uptime, and we are able to lend ourselves to companies where that's particularly important for. And, there's many providers that are very reliant on high uptime. It might be an e-commerce site, a website that you want constantly available, or you could be monitoring or providing services on a regular basis where our customers, our clients' end customers need constant access to services and therefore uptime is of optimum importance to them.

Sian (12:03):

And, I would imagine as well, and I've seen some things again, while I was researching for this episode around that Tier 4 certification is really reassuring for companies who are perhaps either moving from an on-premise to a cloud-first strategy, or perhaps they've gone down a hybrid model and perhaps they're trying to decide, "Okay. Should a cloud-first strategy suit my business?" I would imagine that certification provides a lot of reassurance?

Simon Yeoman (12:31):

For many businesses where this is moving to cloud is new and there's some issue around reluctance or risk and it provides comfort, Tier 4 as an independent certification, it should provide our customers with confidence that this is a risk averse way of going. The full fault tolerance allows people to utilise our services with confidence going forward about, that their services and the value that they're trying to provide to their customers is secure and fully available.

Sian (13:07):

Yeah. Brilliant. Well, thank you. I think that's given us a really good journey through the Tier 4 certification, because there's a lot involved and I think the fact that you have one for both design and construction will be incredibly reassuring to Fasthosts' customers. So thank you, Simon.

Simon Yeoman (13:25):

Thank you very much.

Sian (13:25):

Appreciate you being here today.

Simon Yeoman (13:26):

Enjoyed it.

Sian (13:27):

Yep. Excellent. And, next time we meet, we're going to be talking about the sustainability side.

Simon Yeoman (13:31):

Look forward to it.

Sian (13:32):

It should be interesting. Thanks.

Outro (13:35):

Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed this episode. You can subscribe on Spotify or Apple Podcast, or visit proactive.fasthosts.co.uk for more info. See you next time.

Orlaith Palmer

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