What’s an hour of your time worth? Quite simply, your payslip and a calculator will tell you what it’s worth to you. But your business sees it differently. If you miss an hour’s work, the cost to your organisation in lost productivity can far exceed your hourly rate. With this in mind, do you know what the cost would be to your organisation if your IT systems went down for an hour? How about a whole day or even longer?!

Regarding the first paragraph, I would suggest that the hour of time is worth more to the business than purely the 1 hour cost of your salary.  Something like “your payslip and a calculator will give you the cost of lost time, but what about the cost to the business in lost productivity which can far exceed that?

What effect does downtime have on a business?

Outages and downtime can be crippling in different ways for organisations unprepared for such events. When systems don’t work as planned, it is hugely inconvenient for the user. Downtime will frustrate your internal users which will impact their motivation – particularly if the issue is a recurring one. In fact, technical issues can have a negative effect on employee motivation for the whole day if your staff cannot log on or use your tech as usual. As your employees struggle with your tech, their productivity will decrease and they will blame the tech for not being able to focus on customers.  If downtime and outages happen frequently enough, your retention rates will also drop as employees get fed up and shop around for another job.

Another casualty of systems downtime are your customers. Whilst your organisation wastes time trying to fix tech issues, your customers will be receiving a service which is below par. Occasionally, this can have devastating results – as was the case for a family made homeless at Christmas due to an IT outage at a law firm. If customers are frustrated enough, they may go in search of a better service elsewhere. In fact, more than a third of SMEs in a recent Tech Radar survey reported that they’d lost customers due to outages.

What are the most common causes of outages and downtime?

-Lack of cyber security procedures

Complete outages often occur because of a security breach – for example, a ransomware attack. The National Cyber Security Centre guidelines to all companies are to assume that a breach will happen. So, if you’ve never suffered a data breach then don’t be complacent. You need to be thinking about investing in cyber security which is fit-for-purpose to protect your organisation.

-Lack of maintenance

Poor maintenance of your infrastructure is also a common cause of downtime. One out-of-service laptop may only affect one user but networks and servers which are not properly maintained can bringdown a whole organisation until the issue is fixed. This could have disastrous results and cost your business both in fees to fix the problem, and lost income if your customers were unable to contact you. Your reputation might also suffer negatively as a result, especially as social media can quickly escalate this globally.

-Lack of user training

Uneducated users can also contribute to a form of downtime through a lack of activity. Training on your systems is crucial for your users to understand how to use your technology properly but it is often a secondary consideration in SMEs – if it is even a considered at all! You can’t expect users to intuitively use your tech in the most efficient way so don’t leave them guessing. You may want to outsource this training if your IT department are not the best people run it. Yes, they understand IT, but do they understand how to deliver a training programme which focuses on the user and addresses their needs?

Where do I start if I want to make improvements?

First of all, take away the excuse from users that your tech is rubbish by improving it! You can begin by making sure your organisation has a cohesive IT strategy in place. This should take into consideration the following:

  • business requirements and objectives
  • capacity and scalability of existing systems
  • security & preventative maintenance
  • end user requirements

Don’t just address the technical aspects of your business’ IT systems – you need to look at the IT services you have in place as well. These include your internal IT department, your outsourced IT functions, your internet lines, the hardware in use for end users etc. Your strategy has to cover everything.

IT systems can be put in place reactively but this is not ideal at all. With this approach, you will just be plastering over the cracks with piecemeal fixes without an overarching solution. Being proactive is key to focusing on what your organisation and your tech users need to move forwards.

What measures can I put in place to minimise the cost of unplanned downtime?

Make sure that you have a preventative maintenance system in place so that when unplanned downtime occurs, issues are fixed in line with business expectations of an acceptable timeframe. When a critical business system is down, it will need to be fixed immediately. However, it may be acceptable for other concurrent issues to be fixed over a longer timeframe if they aren’t business critical. So, by aligning your disaster recovery and failover solutions to your business needs and prioritising them, you will minimise the cost of downtime and reduce the cost of disaster recovery.

Your IT strategy is crucial for minimising the cost of unplanned downtime and maximising efficiencies because it will help you understand which systems are business-critical. You will not know the answer to this until you analyse the technology your business uses, what it does for the business and the impact of losing it.

If you need further advice on avoiding unplanned downtime then AzteQ CUBe is a completely customisable framework which can help you avoid unplanned downtime and address all of your technology needs.