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The concept of five nines availability has its roots in server deployment. That standard demands that the IT department or the service provider hired by an enterprise deliver access to applications and data 99.999 percent of the time. Even with today's migration to cloud storage and SaaS product delivery, much can happen to extend downtime to more than the remaining 5.26 minutes of every year. Is that small window of downtime a pie in the sky for small and medium-sized businesses, whether or not they rely on cloud computing?
Most hardware vendors and systems consultants defined 5-nines as being 100% certainty that you will achieve 99.999% uptime. This is because a single piece of equipment or system can achieve 99.999% uptime over a limited time window, but still not be a 5-nines system. So, to assure true 5-nines, you need geographic diversity as well as fully redundant hardware/software. This is what Bert Armijo from 3Tera was alluding to when he spoke of having a "plan and technology", since high availability systems have to be designed from the ground up to achieve 5-nines. Important parts of the plan are providing for failover at every level of technology, proper monitoring and maintenance of all systems, and choosing technology that is failover-ready, as well as the softer goal of having a culture of quality and reliability in your organization.
"While that goal is technically attainable for SMBs, it is almost impossible to find an SMB willing to spend the time and money required to guarantee it."
Yes, this used to be the case but there are firms out there that strive to to actually service the SMBs of the world and to give them the support they need. There is a regional IT Services firm called Trigon Technology that provides these services at a price point all organizations can afford. Check them out at www.trigonIT.com . If you know of any small businesses in the Philadelphia area they can surely help them with five nines at a more than bearable price point.