Business continuity

What Really Causes Technology Outages?


Sometimes it is easy for business owners to forget everything their IT service provider does to help keep their business up and running. This is mostly true when everything is working great. However, when an outage happens, they become very aware of the dependence they have on the technology that keeps the business going.

Nobody wants  an outage. Businesses in 2018 run on a 24/7 cycle, and downtime is increasingly unacceptable anytime. When an outage does occur, it throws a wrench into everyone's day, including the IT service provider, who now has to scramble to find available techs to dispatch to the problem. While some outages can be prevented with proactive solutions, many outages cannot be planned for at all.

Technology Outages: The Top Causes

Over the last 12 months, around 70 percent of U.S. businesses experienced at least one unplanned IT disruption, according to US Signal's 2018 IT Resiliency Survey results. The survey was carried out via Survey Monkey in July and August 2018 and is based on information gathered from more than 50 IT professionals from a cross-section of sectors.

The survey revealed that there are four common forms of IT disruption:

  • Outages from natural disasters (53 percent)
  • Errors while implementing new technology (26 percent)
  • Ransomware (21 percent)
  • IT overloads (21 percent)

Fires have been raging on the west coast, and massive hurricanes have hit the Florida and Texas coasts over the last 12 months. As I write this blog, Hurricane Florence is nearing the U.S. East Coast.

Natural disasters have certainly played their part in outages, and it shows in the research. It is extremely difficult to plan for outages caused by natural disasters, but IT providers can have redundancy in place to help with business continuity in the event of a natural disaster. Offsite failover servers can play a huge role in keeping a business online. Many businesses are choosing cloud-based infrastructure to ensure this failover happens automatically.

Some good news from the survey shows that most businesses are prepared with a disaster recovery plan in place.

  • 30% of the respondents stated that they definitely had a plan;
  • 58% said they had a plan that had some room for improvement; and
  • fewer than 15% said they either didn't have a plan, or they weren't sure if they had one or not.

The majority of those businesses not only have a plan but also continue to update the plan every 6 months to a year.

A Good Recovery Plan

A good recovery plan has solutions for all four of those most common forms of IT disruption. As mentioned previously, businesses can continue operations in the cloud or on a failover server located in an unaffected area. New technology can be thoroughly tested prior to deployment. Regular backups can render ransomware ineffective, and frequent program and operating system updates can help prevent the attacks altogether. IT overloads can also be prevented by regular maintenance and monitoring of the infrastructure.

One of the most interesting statistics from the survey was that 0% of those who responded said they would be fully resistant to an IT disruption. There are two constants in technology, the first is that it's always changing, and the second is that eventually, the technology will fail. The failure may not happen today or tomorrow, but someday every piece of technology will reach a failure point. No one can ensure 100% uptime, even though people want to believe they can. The survey clearly shows that these respondents are realistic in their views.

You cannot predict the weather any more than you can predict a failure with 100% accuracy, and as shown, many outages are often correlated to those unpredictable weather patterns and natural disasters. While IT outages are bound to happen, and usually at the worst possible time, IT departments and service providers can shorten the length of the outages and prevent some of them from even occurring by reviewing their resilience to an outage frequently.

You can view the full results of the survey and the accompanying infographic on the US Signal website.