While not every network user requires that access be available on a 24/7, round-the-clock basis, a high level of system or IT system uptime is a goal that every organization should strive for on an annual basis.
Whether it’s a measure of how much time employees are unable to access a system or (depending on their level of IT reliance) how much time employees spend not working, downtime is undesirable for any organization. As such, organizations typically create service-level agreements that specify a target annual uptime percentage between 99% and 100% on a year-round basis, according to Atlassian.
100% reliability not impossible, yet not worth the cost
When it comes to system reliability, networks employed for applications including hospital patient recordkeeping, data server center operations and control systems for unmanned military vehicles, for example, cannot operate without a consistently high percentage of uptime. Yet even for these types of systems, the exorbitant resourcing and engineering costs associated with achieving a true 100% annual uptime rate does not make the goal feasible, particularly with recent increases in cyberattack frequency and the unpredictability of natural disasters. Simply put, the complexity of resourcing needed to ensure no downtime at any given moment is not worth the cost, according to cybersecurity expert and blogger Chris Lema.
According to Vxchnge, the “gold-standard” for annual network uptime that an organization should strive for is 99.999% (an uptime percentage referred to as “five-nines”), while the highest possible level is 99.99999% (seven-nines). For perspective, the difference in the amount of time lost between the two uptime percentages is more than five minutes – the former representing over five minutes of annual network downtime, while the latter translates to just over three seconds, according to Nordic APIs.
“The further down the uptime rabbit hole you go, the more complexity and time you add, and the harder it becomes to realize a tangible benefit,” said Atlassian Product Marketing Manager Blake Thorne. “Going from two nines to four nines is a lot simpler than going from four nines to six nines…at some point, you see diminishing benefit from chasing (uptime).”
Creating a network that sees as little downtime as possible
When it comes to establishing a network infrastructure that aims to achieve and maintain a high amount of uptime on an annual basis, it is recommended that an organizer “strike a balance” between complexity and simplicity to avoid costly over or under-engineering.
For instance – a beginner-level programmer can design a simple website that may not be secure, but experiences 100% uptime, while an advanced level programmer can do the opposite. Both scenarios are beneficial in their own ways, yet present their own unique problems. Here are some recommendations as to how one can create a system with near-perfect uptime without compromising cybersecurity or intuitive functionality:
-Use multiple servers in separate locations
One way to guarantee that a DNS does not experience a traffic overload is through the use of multiple redundant servers, or “server clusters” set in separate locations. Along with creating servers in collocation centers closer to users, cloud servers backed up by strong application programming interfaces are also a viable failover solution, particularly for the storage and recovery of important data.
-Arrange DNS(s) to eliminate single points of failure
One of the most basic ways to guarantee that a system will experience a high level of uptime is to eliminate what are known as single points of failure. Technologically speaking, if any one individual network component failure causes the entire system to fail, it is considered a SPOF – such as a broken link in a chain.
Update, and make sure it’s all up-to-date
-Make sure system hardware is not faulty or outdated
One of the most basic ways to prevent system downtime is ensuring that a system runs on hardware that will not fail due to aging, poor quality craftsmanship or improper installation. Top level performance from hardware like servers, computer systems and power supplies are crucial to high uptime; such service can be provided at data centers with amenities like round-the-clock monitoring and cooling.
-Don’t skip software updates
One way that a system can lose uptime is if the software used on its devices is not up-to-date, both as a result of any slowdown or known vulnerabilities exploited by hackers. Software should be updated on all IoT devices, including computers, smartphones and tablets.
Test and improve the system’s level of cybersecurity
-Conduct “white hat” operations, such as a penetration test
In order to identify any vulnerabilities in a system that could leave it open to a cyberattack and result in downtime, an operator can conduct a penetration test – that is, assume the role of a hacker attempting to gain access to the system. If any vulnerabilities have been identified and exploited, the code should be patched or otherwise corrected.
-Have routine employee cyber safety training
If the employees responsible for running a system or multiple systems are unaware of the steps necessary to guaranteeing the highest level of uptime, downtime is to be expected. Regular training – particularly with regard to cyber safety – should be an integral aspect of a system with optimal uptime.