As U.S. businesses have become evermore reliant on the power of technology to conduct their day-to-day operations, costs associated with network or other types of information technology-related downtime are substantial.
Time spent offline translates into money lost: according to multiple studies and reports, the average annual cost of IT downtime for businesses is $1.55 million, along with the loss of nearly 550 hours of employee productivity, according to an ERS IT Solutions infographic compiling multiple findings. Downtime has a significant impact on all types of business; 56% of Fortune 500 companies experience at least 1.6 hours of downtime per week, for example, while small businesses spend an average of 6.4% of their annual revenue dealing with downtime, per Dunn & Bradstreet and AMR Research.
IT downtime in 2019: Putting lives at risk, among other consequences
In 2019 alone, there were numerous instances of IT downtime that affected not only many U.S. businesses, but also the private individuals around the globe who buy and use their services and goods.
Southwest Airlines, in particular, was affected by two major instances of IT downtime in 2019 – the first being a data center outage that resulted in grounded flights for up to 40 minutes in April, followed by Aero Data servers that went offline unexpectedly the next month, that also affected JetBlue and other airlines, according to Data Economy.
In March, millions of Facebook users were unable to access the social media platform for up to 14 hours, followed by a similar incident that lasted about two hours the following month, a separate Data Economy article reported. The downtime resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in ad revenue for the company.
At the beginning of the year, 911 emergency services were rendered unusable for two days in several states after a Century Link cloud communications network experienced an outage due to a malfunctioning network management card in a data center, according to Data Economy. Along with the inability to dial 911, some customers (even those as far as Germany and New Zealand) lost access to broadband, TV and phone services.
How to Prepare for and Prevent IT Downtime
While every instance of IT downtime cannot be prevented, many causes can be easily avoided. For instance, the most common cause is human error, reported by Arrowhead Technologies to account for around 45% of IT downtime issues.
Not only must businesses monitor the backbone of their information technology systems: servers – they must also consider the physical infrastructure on which employees rely to access IT services for their duties. Here are some industry professional-recommended downtime prevention strategies that companies can implement to mitigate any financial and time-related costs incurred by a hindered IT network:
Have a plan in place to regularly monitor, update and replace servers
When a business’s internet server(s) go offline at the wrong time and is not rectified quickly, there is the potential to lose hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars as the minutes or in some cases, hours, go by. The best way to handle server downtime is to prevent it from occurring in the first place – this involves regular health monitoring, update installation and signal strength testing. Not only does this information give companies a better idea of when they need to update their servers, it also allows them to better identify the warning signs as to when one is facing issues.
Server backups to a physical hard drive or cloud (along with backup tests) are also recommended in the event that information can be accessed offline.
Fault-proof your physical IT infrastructure and devices
Not only can a compromised IT infrastructure result in downtime – it could result in the loss of valuable property and human life. Whether it’s a data server room that is not properly ventilated and cooled or a switchboard with a faulty circuit breaker, risks such as fires, short-circuits and electrocution can arise from a lack of proper maintenance and upkeep.
Conduct employee compliance training for IT downtime preparation and response
Businesses should take care to properly educate employees and discourage technological habits conducive to a server crash, glitches or the loss of data through a hack, for example.
Along with setting certain user permissions, managers should educate employees on what they should avoid when opening emails or browsing the internet, among others. In the event that downtime does occur, employees should be properly trained on the steps they should take so they do not prolong the issue, such as designating an IT manager or specific individual to contact and handle any troubleshooting or recovery efforts.
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