Most people have experienced it at one time or another. They visit a website or log into an application only to be met by a blank loading screen. Seconds go by, then minutes. After a few unsuccessful attempts to refresh the site or re-enter login information, they’re forced to accept the reality.
Somewhere, something has made servers go down.
Server downtime is one of the biggest problems every organization hopes it will never have to deal with. With so much of today’s business taking place online, more and more companies have become completely dependent upon the IT infrastructure that keeps internet services humming along. But with so much complexity and all the strain being put on these systems, problems and service outages are inevitable, with 90% of companies suffering unplanned downtime at an average cost of $1.55 million each year.
If your business depends upon employees using cloud-based applications and software to carry out their day-to-day job functions, the immediate impact of server downtime is reduced productivity. Employees won’t be able to access the tools they need and could very well end up sitting around with nothing to do while they wait for service to be restored. In most cases, employees are still being paid despite not producing any work, which can have a serious financial impact on a company if the unplanned downtime lasts for too long.
While the system downtime itself is bad enough to contend with, the lost productivity also creates ongoing workflow problems as people try to get caught up once they’re able to resume work. If products or services can’t be provided on schedule, their delay may cause additional problems elsewhere. These fluctuations in workflow can disrupt supply chains or project schedules, both of which can have long-term impacts on a company.
For organizations with a strong e-commerce presence, server downtime can be devastating. Every moment of downtime represents lost sales and reduced profits. While a large company like Amazon might be able to weather an unexpected dip in revenue, the vast majority of online sellers operate on much smaller margins. Whether your company provides products or services, system downtime can make it impossible for you to do either, making it impossible to engage in business at all. Even for organizations not engaged in e-commerce, website problems can still impact revenue streams if they rely on advertising or affiliate links.
Cloud service providers and data centers lay out their uptime standards in service level agreements (SLAs), which indicate the percentage of time their systems will be available. To get a sense of how an outage will impact revenue, a company simply needs to know their current provider’s uptime SLA and their average monthly revenue. Entering both figures into an SLA uptime calculator will indicate just how much money even a few seconds of unplanned downtime might cost.
Many of today’s companies rely on sophisticated data analysis to drive their business decisions. By gathering customer data in the form of buying trends, demographics, and other areas, these companies utilize complex and resource-intensive algorithms to generate valuable insights that help them identify opportunities and efficiencies that will give them an edge over competitors. Much of this analysis takes place in cloud-based applications, where scalability and economies of scale make powerful analytics resources practical for companies of all sizes.
But when the cloud servers go down, the data processing goes down with it. Suddenly the latest data is no longer being fed into the algorithm to provide the most current metrics. In today’s fast-moving economy, companies can’t afford to rely on outdated analysis. Since the insights produced by data analysis are only as good as the data they have to work with, any service outage can cripple an organization’s ability to make the best possible decisions.
Perhaps the most feared outcome for most organizations, data loss can be catastrophic for many organizations. While every company is concerned with protecting its data, companies that must comply with strict regulations and compliance protocols go to great lengths to ensure that customer and client data remains safe and secure. Even the slightest compromise to that security could result in expensive fines and penalties. Other companies rely heavily on proprietary data to compete in crowded markets, so any loss of that data to a service outage could have devastating consequences to the company’s future prospects.
While losing access to data due to system downtime doesn’t necessarily mean data will be lost, data integrity should be one of the first questions on every IT manager’s mind. Most organizations are smart enough to back up their crucial data, but depending on the nature of the problem causing the unplanned downtime, it could still be at risk. In some instances, server downtime can cause key cybersecurity measures to fail, exposing companies to additional threats, such as cyberattacks or even natural disasters.
As the old saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” In today’s fast-paced online world, it might be worth amending “first” to “good.” Consumers expect speed and efficiency more than ever, and they’re quick to abandon brands that don’t deliver a good customer experience. When server downtime or cloud outage creates difficulties for your consumers in the form of crashing websites, slow response times, and general inconvenience, you not only lose them as potential customers, but also cause lasting damage to your brand reputation that’s difficult to correct. People may not always share their good experiences with companies, but they rarely miss the opportunity to explain how others failed to meet their expectations.
When servers go down, all of your organization’s best-laid plans could very quickly go to waste. From short term costs like productivity and revenue losses to more enduring consequences like compromised data and loss of brand reputation, system downtime has the potential to inflict significant damage to your company. To avoid these problems, it pays to find a cloud provider and data center solutions that offer the highest levels of sustainable uptime assurance possible. Just as your customers rely on your dependability, you need to partner with a provider who has a proven history of sustainability and survivability. As technology evolves it still needs to be supported through excellent process and maintenance controls.
Ross is a Regional Vice President, Operations at vXchnge and is responsible for managing all 14 data center locations. With more than 30 years of experience, Ross has managed data center construction, engineering, repair and maintenance, leading him to the emerging business of colocation.