As IT organizations move towards digitizing services and operations, there is an ever-increasing dependence on the IT infrastructure that supports these needs. It follows that any degradation of performance of the infrastructure directly affects the manner in which business is conducted and, therefore, the bottom line.
A quick Google search reveals several recent examples. And the financial impact is staggering in all cases. In 2017, a high-profile outage in Amazon’s AWS cloud service caused losses of $150M to the businesses that depended on its availability.
According to Gartner, the average cost of network downtime is around $5,600 per minute. That can add up quickly. An outage that lasts for half an hour can cost $168,000 or more by this measure.
While the impact to larger enterprises makes for newsworthy headlines, the effect on smaller businesses is not trivial. In fact, it could be said that the impact is more substantial to smaller businesses since they lack the resources and recovery capabilities that larger enterprises have to bounce back from adverse incidents.
The Impact of Degradation in Infrastructure Performance
When a major service outage occurs, the results are immediately apparent, but even the subtlest degradation in infrastructure performance can have a significant impact. These kinds of nagging performance issues typically do not get the attention that a larger service outage would attract.
As a result, they tend to persist over longer periods of time – all the while steadily eroding the ability of the organization to operate. Which, in turn, erodes profits.
Further, these under-the-radar issues remain underreported. Each of us has been on a conference call with subpar video or audio. Did you ever wonder if anyone bothered to report the issue?
Performance issues impact the ability to generate revenue in different ways. Service outages are the extreme. It’s easy to draw the correlation that, when an outage impacts customer-facing or service-delivering systems, revenue generation is at risk. If you can’t deliver your services or satisfy customer needs, revenue is affected until such time that service can be restored. Even a short outage can scare off a high-paying customer.
Another facet is productivity. You depend on your infrastructure to deliver the services that your business is based upon. When an outage occurs, your employees cannot perform their jobs. Every hour of downtime is another hour of cost with no tangible value being generated.
In addition to the short-term impact to revenue generation and productivity, there are longer-term implications too. Take customer satisfaction, for example. Outages directly affect customer perception. The more often they occur and the longer they last, the more negative the experience over time.
Dissatisfied customers always have the option to leave for other solutions. There are always competitors out there with enticing offers that make it easy for them to switch.
Considerations for Coping with Service Outages
So, what are the best practices to manage the situation? Ideally, via problem avoidance. However, when outages do occur, you need to have a plan in place for rapid service restoration. Here are some considerations:
- Problem avoidance is enabled by anything you can do to get ahead of the issue before it occurs. A proactive approach is key to achieving this goal.
- Proper planning, design and provisioning (taking redundancies into account) are each useful to ensure a basically sound infrastructure that’s up to the task of supporting the needs imposed upon the system.
- The tools and processes you put in place to manage the infrastructure come next.
- Change management needs to be effective and can go a long way when it comes to taking human errors out of the equation.
The Role of IT Operations Monitoring
When it comes to running your infrastructure, your IT operations management tools are the crucible upon which your service delivery is forged. Monitoring is key.
The data collected via IT operations monitoring is not just useful for populating reports and dashboard views, it can also be leveraged for advanced analytics and predictive techniques, such as trending, which highlight issues in the infrastructure that have the potential to become disruptive. Data analytics make it possible to take measures to mitigate the risk before things get out of hand and users begin to feel the effects.
After all, the best outcome is if you can fix something before customers call in to start reporting problems.
Once problems do manifest themselves, focus must shift to limiting the impact. Service restoration is the only thing that matters. Getting rapidly to the root of the problem and fixing the issue take precedence over all else. Advanced analytics can help determine the cause of issues, but when coupled with automation capabilities, remediation can be accelerated tremendously.
The digital transformation of modern enterprise is well on its way. The performance of the underlying infrastructure directly affects the ability to conduct business and enable the transformation. While the avoidance and rectification of obvious outages remain the primary focus, utilizing IT operation monitoring to keep an eye on subtle changes in the performance of your infrastructure pays off too.
This is the first of a two-part series on cybersecurity.