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What is Downtime?

Despite brands increasingly relying on their online presence as their main revenue stream, unplanned website downtime is still extremely common. But what is downtime and what can businesses put in place to reduce the amount of time they are offline?

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What is downtime? 

You will regularly hear the term downtime in the world of IT, but what does it mean?

Downtime is a universal term across the world of technology and is one of the key metrics used to understand the availability of a system.

 IT downtime can be grouped into one of two core areas:

Planned downtime: This is when you have scheduled time to limit or shut down a tool, website or complete IT environment to allow for planned maintenance, repairs, upgrades or testing. 

Unplanned downtime: This is when there is an unexpected failure of equipment or processes in which your intended users cannot access tools, a website or a database.

What causes downtime? 

Despite IT budgets increasing and businesses now often relying on online platforms as their core revenue driver, IT downtime is still a threat across every industry. 

Due to the nature of online platforms today, downtime can occur at any time and be linked to a range of issues. But what are the most common causes of downtime? 

Scalability 

Scalability is simply the ability to quickly and easily increase or decrease the size, storage or capabilities of an IT solution, network or application. 

The number one cause of downtime today is the inability of organisations to scale when needed. As customer demands continue to grow, scaling up your IT resources has never been so important. The challenge facing IT managers is predicting and reacting to spikes in website traffic, where the usual operating level cannot meet the demands, resulting in the server overloading and crashing.

Software and O/S Bugs 

Bugs in operating systems can cause major and unexpected periods of downtime. As well as long periods of downtime, server bugs can also be a major flaw in an organisation’s cybersecurity practices. 

Hardware failures 

While it can be frustrating when your PC breaks down, the impact of a server failure can be catastrophic for your business. When hardware failures occur, especially on the server level, it can cause you to lose work, your website to go down, and can create wider issues for your network.

Configuration management

Downtime is often a result of incorrect configurations. In fact, this is a major cause of network downtime and a vital cybersecurity flaw. Configuration management is an essential part of managing security and preventing downtime for any business. 

Cyber attacks

We can’t talk about the causes of downtime without touching on cyberattacks. While cyberattacks have significant ramifications, such as data breaches, data being held for ransom or data being deleted, cyberattacks can also cause a substantial amount of downtime, as organisations try to get back on their feet. In 2021, the average downtime a company experienced after a ransomware attack was 7-21 days. Although we may naturally focus on the loss of data when a cyber attack occurs, downtime is usually the most expensive aspect of such an attack.

What is the impact of downtime? 

When we discuss the impacts of downtime, we can look at two key areas: financial and reputational. 

The financial impact simply is the financial loss from your server, network or website being unavailable. This can be calculated either by lost revenue, e.g. how much money your business makes an hour from online sales channels multiplied by the hours you are down. Here, it is vital to remember that the costs will go beyond just lost sales.  

The reputational impact of downtime can’t be calculated in the same way but can be equally as crucial to a business. One of the biggest pains facing companies during downtime events is disappointed customers. Social media and tools such as downdetector.com become regular homes for users registering complaints and have the potential to push new customers away. To find out more about the reputational impact of downtime, visit our Customer Tolerance to IT Downtime

To summarise, the longer an outage lasts, the more costly it becomes, both financially and reputationally. 

Five ways to minimize downtime

There are countless ways to minimise or mitigate unplanned downtime. To save you time, we have listed our top five:

Keep everything up to date

Updates and patches for all aspects of your hardware and software are crucial to ensure the stability and security of your IT environment. With cyber-attacks being such a prominent threat for organisations of all sizes, minimising the number of vulnerabilities for malicious actors to exploit will go a long way to reducing the amount of unplanned downtime. If you aren’t confident in your current infrastructure, you should look to update this immediately. 

Disaster recovery

No matter how prepared you may be, there is always a chance that something can happen that takes your IT infrastructure down. With a disaster recovery solution, you are able to recover your mission-critical data quickly, even if there has been a complete outage. Whether a ‘disaster’ is malicious or not, employing a disaster recovery solution can help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible. 

Backups 

With regular backups of your databases or your website, you can ensure security and business continuity in the event of data loss. To help you bounce back into action, a fully managed backup service strategy is essential. 

Test 

Cars have an MOT test for a reason – it’s a chance to find out if there’s an issue with a car that could compromise your safety. In the same way, it’s a good idea to regularly schedule tests to ensure your servers, hardware and software are all working correctly. Plan this test for non-peak times to ensure customers are not affected

Education

As social engineering and phishing attacks are continually becoming more complex, educating your workforce on these attacks, including the latest trends, what to look out for and the impacts of these attacks will play a significant role in preventing them. Putting the best possible protection in place across all internal messaging and external email platforms will protect you further against these attacks.

How can a managed service provider help reduce downtime? 

A managed service provider can offer your organisation comprehensive support for multiple areas of your infrastructure, whether that be your cloud environment, cyber security, or website hosting. The overall goal here is to ensure that your customers can always reach you and that when downtime does occur, you’re able to get back online as quickly as possible. 

If you are concerned about the potential impact of downtime on your business, get in touch today to discuss how we can help you reduce the risk and ensure your customers can always reach you.

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