We hear about them all the time. Most of us have probably experienced them personally. We’re talking about system outages, and the downtime that typically follows. But do we really understand what these incidents mean and, more importantly, how without the right incident response plan they can ultimately impact an organization’s bottom line? The answers may surprise you, and not in a good way. Let’s take a look.
Causes of System Outages
Outages can be categorized into two areas: planned and unplanned. It’s the latter of the two that has the biggest impact on businesses. But what causes these types of situations? What triggers a system, database, hardware or software down time? According to the IT Process Institute’s Visible Ops Handbook, some 80% of unplanned outages are caused by people and poorly planned/executed processes. Furthermore, the Enterprise Management Association reports that 60% of failures come as a result of manual configuration errors.
What’s the common denominator here? The answer is simple. Humans. The truth is, even the most highly skilled and well-trained IT professional has the potential to make a mistake, and even the tiniest of errors can result in critical systems going down. They’re also not at all uncommon. In fact, recent studies indicate that the average organization experiences about 4 outages per year. Approximately half of all organizations surveyed also indicated that they’d experienced at least one complete network outage each year.
Impact of System Outages
The ultimate impact an outage will have on the IT department and, in most cases, an organization as a whole typically depends on the type of outage as well as how long the subsequent downtime lasted. Generally speaking, the average length of an unplanned outage is somewhere around 1 hour and 18 minutes.
Depending on what systems went down, this could mean loss of productivity for one department or the entire company. It could also extend to external sources, such as a network outages that impact customer interactions with an organization. For example, if Amazon.com went down, not only would internal operations suffer, but the loss of revenue from potential online sales would be massive.
Without the right incident response strategy in place, the results can be disastrous.
Costs of System Outages
So, what does this mean in dollars and cents? Well, a significant outage can cost an organization on average $12,250 per minute. Yes, you read that right. Annual losses top out somewhere around $3.9 million per organization. Another thing to consider is the fact that system outages can also result in a costly loss of critical data, the exact impact of which can only be measured on an individual basis, depending on what information was lost.
This is why it is absolutely critical that businesses take the appropriate measures to avoid potential outages and, at the very least, have a plan in place to limit the amount of downtime as much as possible. Experts agree that the best strategy is to design and implement a strategy that leverages all of the available technology, particularly IT automation, which takes most of the human element out of the process and ensures a more timely and accurate response to potential incidents. In fact, with the right tools in place, downtime can be reduced by up to 90%. One only needs to look at the potential costs of extended periods of downtime to recognize how impactful such a reduction can be.
The truth is, despite our most valiant efforts, IT systems inevitably fail from time to time, whether it’s due to a simple misconfiguration or a process that wasn’t executed properly. The key is to take the appropriate steps ahead of time so that if and when a critical incident occurs, the results will be as low-impact as possible.