The importance of getting your downtime as low as possible is almost impossible to overstate. Look at the perspective of organizational leadership. Incredibly, 9 out of every 10 data center professionals say that management at their company is more focused on downtime than they were 12 months ago, according to the 2017 Uptime Institute Annual Survey.
What can you do to keep all your systems up and running consistently, ensuring business continuity? Before we get into those downtime-prevention strategies, let’s first look at the general issue: statistics on how costly downtime is and common risky ways that sensitive data is shared (an activity that increases when systems are unavailable).
- Why is downtime prevention so important?
- 7 tips to minimize your downtime
- Take action to keep downtime low
Why is downtime prevention so important?
The expenses related to downtime have been soaring in recent years. Findings from the Aberdeen Group show that the cost rose 60% from 2014 to 2016 – ascending from $164,000 per hour to hit an average figure of $260,000 per hour, across all industries. Keep in mind, this cost is purely a financial hemorrhage; for a loss more than $1 million, you get four hours without your systems, and (of course) no benefit.
These costs are so incredibly high that the risks of outages should now be considered an even higher priority than it already was (as if $164k per hour were not high enough). No matter how large your firm is, it is fundamental to your stability to have business continuity and disaster recovery documents prepared and understood by your staff. Keep this in mind: if you do not know the drill and do not know what steps to take when downtime does occur, the situation could spiral into a much greater crisis.
While you may understand that some small amount of downtime should not be considered devastating, you also do not want to become complacent about it. You really do not want to have to put your DR plan into action.
Actually, there is another primary reason that you need to worry about downtime that is related to, yet separate from, the money: data loss. Over three-quarters of senior executives have experienced critical data loss caused by downtime, according to a poll from 2016. Also, a disturbing element of these scenarios is that your employees may transition to consumer platforms when the system goes down — creating security and compliance vulnerabilities. Use of these tools should actually be a concern regardless, as indicated by the extent to which information is shared in risky ways (from a 2014 poll):
- Almost one-third of office workers had used a personal email account for work purposes.
- Dropbox, Box.com, and other file storage software was used by 45% of employees.
- Storage via USBs or other remote devices was conducted by 63% of workers.
As expressed by the above evidence, and regardless of the specific nature of your business, it is reasonable to conclude that downtime matters. Now, what can you do about it?
7 tips to minimize your downtime
So… what can you do about this? Here are a few trusted and relatively straightforward ways that can improve your ability to keep “all systems go” throughout the day, month, and year:
#1 – Review the service level agreements (SLAs) of your providers.
Before you get into what is actually happening, you want to know how much availability is guaranteed within the fine print of your business relationships. You will not be able to achieve the availability that you want if your software and hardware vendors offer 90% uptime SLAs. Demand high uptime, and check that those goals are met (compare our 99.9% uptime guarantee with an award we received for our actual 99.989% uptime).
#2 – Use highly scalable hardware architectures, along with load-balancing.
If you want to be speedy and productive online, it’s necessary to be able to properly scale your data processing and distribute it evenly throughout a group of servers. By using load-balancing, an alternative node will start handling requests whenever the primary node is performing various tasks on a file or is otherwise unavailable. Why is it so central to your business that you be able to quickly and seamlessly scale your infrastructure? You will be a step out in advance of your development – so that the demand for computing from your users is not exceeding your resources. It is also worth noting that downtime is negative even if it is planned because it gets in the way of your productivity. For these reasons, balancing your loads and making your backend as scalable as possible are key to avoiding downtime.
#3 – Deploy active-active clusters.
To keep downtime levels as low as possible, a typical strategy is the use of active-active or active-passive clusters. The former tactic is particularly effective: one study shows that IT departments using the latter technique lost 34% more critical messages and data than those that implemented active-active clustering.
#4 – Do not think that system audits have you covered.
Periodic system audits are standard operating procedure for IT departments — and those will help with uptime. You also want to get rid of unhelpful redundancies and to make the practices of your business more intelligent through process audits. Think about the processes that are the most pivotal if your system were to go down; safeguard those systems. Beyond boosting uptime of your mission-critical systems, you will get a better sense of how to spend money on bolstering your infrastructure when you complete your process audit.
#5 – Adopt systems that are strong and dynamic.
A key concern when you want to limit your downtime is to optimize for scalability. At the level of the hardware, you want to have load-balancing solutions in place so that you do not have a lot of problems related to downtime. What does that mean in practice? If you have to remove a machine from service to make an upgrade or replacement (as with routine maintenance), another server can take its place with no loss of key information or slowdown of your workflow.
#6 – Develop and refine a disaster recovery plan.
As indicated above, you need a DR plan if you don’t have one. Remember that the scope of disaster is broad, far beyond the notion of a weather disaster such as a flood or earthquake. In the majority of cases, human error – mistakes made by people – lead to disasters; in these situations, unplanned downtime is caused by problems with the process. It is important to know what the DR plan of your vendor is, what would take place if the data center failed, and the extent to which multiple redundancies exist.
#7 – Ensure that your providers use enterprise-grade monitoring tools.
If the service you choose, such as a managed VPS hosting company, uses the most advanced and effective monitoring tools, they are able to know when a component is going to fail before it happens. If the monitoring systems and processes that are used by the service are sound, software sends messages whenever risks exist that could hurt the business’s speed or reliability. The hosting engineers should resolve the issue immediately so that users are unaware – with all adjustments performed behind the scenes.
Take action to keep downtime low
Downtime must be avoided – whether you are looking at your own data center or an external one. Achieve excellent uptime that benefits from economies of scale with a strong infrastructure partner. At KnownHost, we have the best uptime in the industry. See our fully managed VPS hosting.