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Minimize Network Downtime with Remote Hands Services

By: Tom Banta on December 11, 2020

Colocation data centers have become a key resource for organizations of all sizes and industries. By using colocation, businesses can control their IT costs, make scaling their network infrastructure easier, and quickly expand into new markets. However, even with great colocation services, network downtime remains a constant threat. Remote hands services can prove to be a key tool for preventing excessive network downtime (and its associated costs).

What is network downtime? How does it impact an organization? Why are remote hands services useful for preventing downtime? Who should you turn to for remote hands support?

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What Is Network Downtime?

Network downtime is the term for when a particular network or service on said network is unavailable for any reason.

There are countless potential causes for network downtime, including (but not limited to):

  • Maintenance Processes. Data center managers may need to take certain servers or databases offline to perform basic maintenance from time to time. Usually, this doesn’t cause network downtime because the maintenance is planned for ahead of time and additional resources can be spun up to cover for the offline asset. However, emergency maintenance may cause some short-term network downtime as damaged, corrupted, or malfunctioning data center assets are repaired or replaced.
  • Human Error. As noted in an article by Lucidchart, “Interrupted sleep and pressure to resolve problems as quickly as possible can take a mental and physical toll on your IT team” and that each alert received is “a distraction that causes you to switch tasks. Studies show that it can take 23 minutes for people to refocus and get back on task.” Stress and distractions can cause people to make mistakes that can impact the availability resources on the network (or the entire network).
  • Ransomware Attacks. Ransomware is designed to attack the information stored on a network and encrypt it so that it cannot be used. Then, a threatening note is delivered to the network’s owner along the lines of “Pay us or else you’ll never get your data back.” Ransomware can render all of the resources on a network unusable to anyone since the data cannot be interpreted without the right decryption key.
  • Critical Equipment Failures. Even with the best maintenance plan, there is always the risk of data center resources failing. From defects in circuitry, to power overloads, to natural disasters impacting the data center, data centers can suffer damage that take them offline—causing extensive network downtime as resources are repaired, replaced, or relocated. Using a multi-data center strategy that distributes resources and eliminates single points of failure can be a critical strategy for preventing downtime from equipment failures.
  • Incorrect Device/Software Configurations. Incorrect configurations of IT assets on the data center can cause significant downtime until the specific error is found and fixed.
  • Power Failures. If a data center suffers a power failure and doesn’t have a backup generator, then all of the resources on that network will be unavailable until power is restored. Adequate surge protection is also necessary to avoid power overloads that can damage delicate server equipment.

Understanding the Hidden Costs Associated with Network Downtime

What does network downtime cost an organization? The answer is that network downtime costs can vary depending on the organization’s industry and business model.

Generally speaking, network downtime costs can be divided into a few major categories:

  • Direct Financial Costs. These costs include things like lost short-term sales opportunities from non-functional systems, labor for fixing the network, penalties for uptime/availability violations, and even providing reimbursements to customers for lost network time. According to data from Statista, in 2020, network downtime cost 25% of companies between $301,000 and $400,000 dollars per hour.
  • Indirect Operational Costs. The sudden occurrence of unplanned network downtime can put an enormous burden on IT staff, create delays in key business workflows, and impede a business’ payment and collection activities (thus harming cash flow). These indirect operational costs can, depending on the situation, be even higher than the direct costs of repairing the network and dealing with direct fines. However, they’re much harder to quantify, as the costs are highly variable depending on factors such as the nature of the issue and how prepared the organization was to deal with network downtime.
  • Reputational Costs. A major network downtime incident can erode consumer trust in an organization’s services—leading to a long term drop in sales as customers seek alternative service providers who can offer better network reliability. Lost customer confidence can have a severe long-term impact on sales opportunities—as evinced by the Target data breach. As reported by Forbes shortly after the breach, Target’s “fourth quarter net income plummeted 46%” in the wake of the data breach (though this was partially driven by concerns about identity/credit card theft in the wake of the breach).

Each of these network downtime cost factors can have a significant impact on a business’ operations moving forward. In the worst case scenario, extensive network downtime could cripple an organization’s operations for a long time and a significant loss of market share—if not contribute to the closure of the company.

So, how can a remote hands service help alleviate network downtime? First, let’s explain what “remote hands” means in the context of colocation data centers.

What Are Remote Hands Services?

A remote hands service is a kind of “catch-all” service offered by some colocation data center vendors that gives colocation customers the ability to delegate specific IT management and maintenance tasks to the provider’s technicians.

Remote hands colocation services can include many forms of support, including:

  • Troubleshooting or conducting initial network router and switch configurations;
  • Installing or optimizing new server blades in network cabinets;
  • Organizing data cabling throughout the customer’s collocated IT assets;
  • Managing server/software updates and reboots as needed;
  • Conducting production environment audits and generating reports;
  • Installing or optimizing new software for the client; and
  • Estimating and managing equipment power needs.

This is far from a comprehensive list, but should provide a general idea of the kind of services remote hands support staff might offer. Of course, some colocation data center services might provide different remote hands services than the items on this list, or may not provide everything listed here. So, it’s important to check with your outsourced IT service provider to see if they offer remote hands support and what that service entails.

So, how does a remote hands colocation service help reduce network downtime?

How Reliable Remote Hands Service Reduce Network Downtime

A few of the ways that remote hands colocation services can help reduce overall network downtime include:

  • Providing Instant Access to Troubleshooting Services. TechTarget notes that “Often, a remote hands service is available around the clock and year-round, in case of data center emergencies or issues that occur outside of regular business hours.” By having a remote hand technician on-hand to address any sudden technical issues, these issues can be fixed more quickly, helping to minimize the downtime they cause.
  • Applying Preventative Maintenance. As data center equipment ages, it can be prone to various maintenance issues. Everything from dust clogging cooling fans to unpatched software causing issues and damaged data cabling creating inconsistent network performance. Onsite “remote hands” technicians in the colocation data center can help to identify and fix these issues proactively before they can cause network downtime.
  • New Infrastructure and Solution Installation Management. Odds are that an IT technician who works in a given data center will have a more complete idea of how well that data center’s architecture will mesh with new hardware and software than someone who’s never inspected the servers personally. Having a remote hands technician to manage new software and hardware installations gives organizations access to an expert who can identify potential issues (like compatibility with a legacy system) and implement proactive fixes (or recommend alternatives when needed).
  • Making Recommendations for Resource Provisioning. If a remote hands technician is actively auditing an organization’s colocation data center environment and notices trends that may impact network performance (such as a growing user base outpacing the resources allocated), they may be able to make recommendations about resource provisioning before an outage occurs because of an overload.

When paired with a solution that provides strong IT visibility and insight into the data center production environment, like intelligent monitoring, remote hands colocation services can help organizations achieve better connectivity and stability than ever.

Are you ready to transform your organization’s IT with colocation data center services that provide superior uptime, visibility, and quality of service? Reach out to vXchnge today to get started!

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