If you don’t consider the cleanliness of a restaurant when choosing where to eat, it will cost you. Eating at an unsanitary restaurant can impact your health, make you sick and, in some cases, kill you.

Health departments in most cities and countries are required to inspect establishments serving food, posting the results using a simple grading system which reports how the facility is actually performing. Most places use an A-D grade. A means the restaurant has performed well. D or “No Rating” means you should probably look for another place to eat.

There is a standard way to measure restaurant cleanliness; why not data center performance?

Infrastructure Masons’ founder Dean Nelson proposed the Data Center Performance Index. DCPI uses simple performance grades in three categories: Availability, Efficiency and Environmental. More than 200 iMasons members contributed to the latest version.

Every “availability zone” in a data center - each building or section served by common power, cooling, and physical connectivity infrastructure, will get ratings in the three categories, (A-A-B, A-C-A etc).

The grades are based on actual performance of the data center over the last 12 months versus the expected design performance. This enables customers to quantify risks and balance them against cost.

The Availability category uses two measures: total downtime in seconds and the number of incidents over the last 12 months. Both are important to IT operations.

Any data center outage could have disastrous implications to a business, but is a single outage lasting 30 seconds better than three outages lasting 10 seconds each? Is an outage acceptable to your business at all? Knowing how a data center performed over time enables you to understand that risk and decide what level is acceptable.

The Efficiency category is based on work done by The Green Grid and ASHRAE’s 90.4 committee. To earn an “A” rating in efficiency, a facility should have a Mechanical Load Component (MLC) and Electrical Loss Component (ELC) 60 percent better than the ASHRAE 90.4 standard in each climate zone. In the US, 50 percent-loaded data centers with a PUE between 1.26 and 1.31 could get A ratings.

The Environmental category rates the annual greenhouse gas emission value of the facility. In the US most facilities will be unable to achieve an “A” grade (zero GHG emissions) by depending on the utility power since it is a mixture of sources. The provider must supplement or offset their consumption with high-quality credits or net new energy projects.

New iMasons members are welcome to help review these proposals. Once formalized, DCPI could be used in response to RFPs.

Mark Monroe is executive director at Infrastructure Masons.

This opinion originally appeared in the June / July edition of the DCD Magazine.