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The Implications Of IT Downtime And How To Mitigate The Risk Of Incidents

2021-08-23 by Clayton Richard

The annual Black Friday sale season is one of the biggest events for retailers in the US, and increasingly, in other countries as well. For one week in November, retailers would push amazing discounts and sales that eager consumers would then take advantage of. Many retailers depend on the Black Friday sale season to generate massive amounts of revenue. That’s why any technical difficulties that happen during this important time of the year can be disastrous.

In 2018, several retailers’ websites crashed during Black Friday itself. The popular fashion store J. Crew saw its website crash and according to experts, it could’ve caused the brand up to $775,000 in lost sales. And this is just for a few hours of downtime. Imagine the extent of the financial losses a company or business will suffer if they have downtime that lasts for days, or even longer. The effects can potentially be devastating.

A report released by Gartner showed that the cost of downtime to a business can be over $5,600 per minute. But this is a conservative figure as the nature of a business will play a big role in the amount of financial loss they suffer because of downtime. It is calculated that some businesses can actually lose up to $540,000 per hour.

Businesses will try to ensure business continuity by putting up protocols in place in case downtime happens. But the safer and more proactive way to solve it is by preventing downtime before it happens.

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are one of the most common causes of IT downtime. The nature of this type of attack is by flooding the network of the target with requests and other forms of instructions, and the system gets so overwhelmed that the target is either not able to respond to requests anymore or it simply crashes the whole system. Setting up DDoS protection for the organization’s network is a good line of defense to prevent this kind of attack from happening.

Causes of downtime

IT downtime can be caused by several things, but it can be grouped together into three distinct causes—failure of network equipment, mistakes made by people, and inadequate security.

Failure of network equipment

IT downtime can be the result of something as innocuous as using equipment that develops faults or breaks down. This can be attributed to using cheap or low-quality equipment that is not at par with industry standards in terms of performance and reliability.

Another reason for equipment failure is neglect and poor maintenance. Network equipment needs to be taken care of and regularly maintained to ensure that they work flawlessly. When equipment is neglected (either by not doing periodic maintenance) then it begins to malfunction. It may start as small glitches but left unresolved it could lead to a massive equipment failure.

Delta Airlines experienced such a failure when an electrical equipment failure resulted in an outage at one of their data centers. The result was chaotic. 2,000 flights had to be grounded over three days and resulted in losses that amounted to $150 million.

Mistakes made by people

This is related to the cause cited above. Human errors can result in network equipment bogging down or vulnerabilities being left exposed. For example, sloppy monitoring and maintenance of the network could result in wrong configurations or improper software installation.

Inadequate security

This is arguably the most common cause of IT downtime. While poor maintenance of equipment or human errors can be valid causes for downtime, attacks coming from malicious actors could be stopped dead in their tracks if there is adequate security installed within the network. In fact, if there are powerful cybersecurity measures implemented in the network,  cyber-attacks brought on by employee irresponsibility, outdated software, or poor maintenance can be easily mitigated or even stopped.

The implications of downtime

Regardless of what caused it, the implications and effects of downtime can have bad effects on any business. Previously cited examples above clearly show the monetary effects of downtime. The tremendous financial loss of an organization that suffers downtime is a serious matter. But there are other implications to the organization too.

Loss of productivity

When an organization’s network suffers downtime it is inevitable that it will affect the productivity within the organization. Being shut out of the office network, failure to access or upload data, inability to sell, and not being able to offer services are all possibilities when downtime occurs.

Loss of brand equity

It may not be apparent to some but downtime can actually have an effect on a company’s brand—it can have damaging effects that would be hard to bounce from.

Customers who can’t access a website, or get a service they want, or be able to buy something will be upset if they only encounter problems instead of what they want. This will affect the company’s reputation and will have detrimental effects on public perception. This will then have serious monetary implications if the situation is not resolved swiftly.

A good example of a brand suffering a hit on its reputation is Amazon. The outages it suffered in its AWS platform negatively affected its perception of Amazon. The company was seen as sloppy, not focused on security, and vulnerable to cybercriminals. It would take some time and a lot of heavy damage control to resolve the issues and return consumer confidence in the brand.

Resolving downtime

If there is one good thing about the topic of downtime, it’s this—it is a preventable issue. There are a number of things that can be implemented that will help prevent any downtimes from happening in the future.

Regular maintenance

Equipment failure is a major cause of downtime. Any problems arising from this can be prevented by just implementing regular maintenance sessions during the lifecycle of the network equipment. This maintenance can be done either with third parties or internally. Regardless of who does it though, it should be remembered that these maintenance sessions should be strictly implemented to prevent the other major cause of downtimes—human error.

Training employees

Since human error has already been mentioned, training the organization’s employees will also help prevent downtime. Conducting regular training about online safety and security will help in minimizing, if not eliminating, human errors coming from within the ranks of non-IT personnel.

Improving cybersecurity posture

Implementing better cybersecurity measures has a tremendous effect in ensuring the network will not suffer from downtimes brought on by cybercriminals. In this regard, there is nothing wrong with adding more security measures on top of existing ones or ensuring your cybersecurity strategy covers as many potential risks as possible.

Conclusion

Downtimes can have a serious effect on any business or company, one that can have detrimental effects on the brand and on the company’s bottom line. The good thing is that downtimes are preventable. By ensuring that the network is protected from errors and from attacks, any downtime can be kept at bay.

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