Architecture, Network security

IT’s inevitable, multi-million dollar problem

August 26, 2014

IT departments have suffered from a persistent and unsolvable issue for years: downtime. Although some organizations are aware of downtime's dangerous ramifications, for most businesses, the loss of core systems, like email servers and backend processors, has been written off as a part of life — after all, 90 percent of all organizations experience it at some point.

The reality is that system downtime causes far more damage than just frustrating end users — it wreaks havoc on business finances, causes data loss and compromises security.

According to a recent downtime study, for most enterprises, a single hour of downtime causes far more damage than just frustrating end users — it wreaks havoc on business finances, causes data loss and compromises security. A single hour of downtime can cost between $250,000 and $500,000 — and one in six reported that they suffer a loss of $1 million or more per hour. Considering the Dun & Bradstreet study that found nearly 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies experience at least 1.6 hours of downtime per week, that loss could multiply to as much as $41.6 million a year for many organizations.

Unfortunately, the financial costs are only part of the problem. Although losing access to the right file might be an inconvenience for end users, the worst-case scenario is losing the data altogether. Nearly half of all end users — and 75 percent of senior-level employees — reported losing important documents, data and emails when core systems have gone down.

Making matters worse, in an attempt to avoid data loss, onerous processes, or system inaccessibility, employees turn to insecure, familiar means to handle sensitive work files when organizational file sharing resources are unavailable or difficult to use. Another recent research study regarding employee file-sharing habits found that:

  • 63 percent of employees have used remote storage devices, such as USBs to handle confidential corporate data
  • 45 percent have used third-party consumer sites like Dropbox, to share and store corporate data
  • Nearly a third have used personal email to send sensitive work files

Almost 75 percent of employees that rely on consumer tools to handle company data think IT administrators would approve. In actuality, these actions increase the risk of a data breach and cause organizations to fall out of compliance, which can lead to further costs and complications in managing a business.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that downtime is inevitable. The best that IT administrators can do is minimize risk and maximize uptime with more available and scalable architectures and smarter processes.

Organizations need to go beyond system audits. Most organizations perform system audits regularly. It's a necessity that ensures every system is running as efficiently as possible — but is that enough? Process audits take it a step further and help streamline organizational practices by giving IT visibility into potential bottlenecks. They also enable IT to pinpoint the processes that are critical to business functionality, which allows administrators to reallocate resources to protect the organization's most critical business drivers.

Additionally, enterprises should rely on high-availability architectures. Implementing systems that feature highly available active-active clustering is a common way for IT to maximize uptime. While active-passive environments may have been a solution in the past, they don't align with the needs of today's businesses. The same downtime study referenced earlier found that IT departments that rely on active-passive clustering reported losing 34 percent more data and important communications than those using active-active clustering. The bottom line: when it comes to mission-critical applications, IT teams should deploy active-active architectures to minimize risk and maximize availability.

Lastly, choosing the right technology partners is key. Your environment might not be at fault if you're experiencing downtime — it's possible your vendors and partners can't guarantee the level of uptime that your business requires. Take a hard look at the service level agreement before committing to a vendor. If the SLA falls short of your business's goals, research alternative vendors that fully meet your organization's daily needs.

Occasional downtime happens, and when it does, the onus is on IT teams to ensure that performance, security and compliance don't suffer.
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