Reducing Downtime with Proactive Managed IT Services

Every company experiences downtime at some point, but prolonged periods without IT capabilities can be financially devastating.

The exact cost of downtime varies from company to company, but one study found it can cost as much as $9,000 a minute. One of the biggest factors is the size of a business. Downtime for relatively small companies, like many of those in Indiana, tends to cost a few hundred dollars per minute. Downtime for large businesses can run into the tens of thousands of dollars per minute or more. For example, a 14-hour downtime at Facebook in March 2019 cost the company almost $90 million.

The business model of Facebook means that the company can't make money if its servers are down, while other business models might be less affected by downtime. For example, e-commerce companies could see a massive drop off in sales if a downtime period is significant, while companies that provide physical services might be less affected. That being said, if a company can't communicate with its customers, regardless of the company type, it will probably lose money.

A few other factors influencing the cost of downtime include:

  • Effect on customers. If downtime happens in the middle of the woods, does anyone know it happened? Simply put, the cost of downtime is much more significant if your customers notice. Downtime that affects customers can result in lost sales, damage to a company's brand and customer churn.
  • Impact on productivity. As with customers, if your employees notice IT downtime, it's going to cost your company much more than if they hadn't noticed. Employees affected by downtime can't make as much progress toward individual and organizational goals.
  • Turnover. Regular downtime can also cause employees to become frustrated and quit. High turnover costs are well documented and can run into tens of thousands of dollars, especially for employees who are hard to replace.

When discussing downtime, it's important to mention its relation to cybersecurity. The mobile devices, endpoints and IoT systems that modern companies rely on create a large attack surface that cybercriminals find irresistible. To prevent downtime related to cyberattacks, organizations must protect vulnerabilities in the software, devices and systems that they use. They must also be aware of and defend against a panoply of security threats, including viruses, phishing scams, malware, ransomware, Trojans, brute force attacks and bots.

Meanwhile, cybercriminals have become more sophisticated, and many have begun to leverage the power of artificial intelligence. While an organization must be vigilant around the clock, cybercriminals only need a moment to be successful. Understandably, the scale of security responsibilities for an in-house IT team can be overwhelming at times. However, an organization must take a proactive approach to security, as not doing so can lead to downtime and other severe consequences.

Proactive Monitoring and Prevention

Many companies are looking to shore up their IT capabilities with a managed services provider, and the best providers take a proactive approach to keep their clients as productive as possible. Reducing downtime with managed IT services typically involves a combination of automation, artificial intelligence and human oversight to anticipate problems and identify emerging issues. In fact, eliminating unplanned downtime is a main focus of all managed IT services.

When it comes to handling their technical capabilities, many organizations are currently using a more reactive model. You're probably familiar with this approach: something goes wrong, a ticket is submitted and IT personnel work to resolve the issue. A proactive approach is more focused on preventing things from going wrong in the first place. Rather than waiting to react to a ticket, IT personnel spend more time performing preventative maintenance, monitoring infrastructure for potential issues and reviewing performance reports.

A proactive approach to reducing downtime with managed IT leans into the use of automation and artificial intelligence. These tools can detect small issues before they become bigger and analyze performance data to identify troubling trends that might not be obvious to human observers. Automated tools allow technicians to take action before a problem even occurs, which prevents downtime from ever happening. The latest in proactive managed IT service technology involves automated self-healing functions that fix problems without bringing in the technician. This lets IT personnel spend more time on responsibilities that require a human touch.

It's important to note that technicians working in a more reactive approach can still do a great job. However, a more proactive and long-term approach to managing incidents is more efficient and more effective at preventing downtime.

A few key elements for reducing downtime with managed IT services can help to keep any organization up and running.

Network Update Management

Network software quickly becomes a breeding ground for security vulnerabilities without regular updates. If your network is hit by a data breach, downtime can be the least of your worries. The loss of intellectual property and customers' personal information can be crippling for any organization.

Proactive network update management isn't prohibitively expensive or time-consuming, and it can prevent devastating breaches. According to CSO, basic scanning and patching could have prevented 60 percent of all data breaches. To be fair, network update management does require some work, and the amount of work grows larger with the size of the organization. Managed service providers will often use centralized management software to automatically update a network and install patches on a regular basis. Network updates can be performed during off hours to minimize downtime.

In addition to being proactive, it's also important for update management to be done correctly. If a series of updates leads to a badly configured network, it can lead to issues. A managed services provider has experience with network update management and can advise you on what updates are necessary for your particular network and which ones can be avoided.

On-Site and Off-Site Data Backups

Data loss can be a massive setback for any business, potentially resulting in financial losses and significant downtime. Regularly backing up data is another one of those mundane tasks that can be a lifesaver. Managed service providers can handle your company's important data and make sure it is regularly backed up. They can also quickly restore any lost data in the event of a cyberattack or natural disaster.

While on-premises servers offer more control over data backups, off-site backups offer an added layer of protection. Regular data backups can automatically send important files into the cloud. In the event of a fire or natural disaster, those files can be readily accessed and downtime can be significantly minimized compared to keeping all of the company's data in on-premises servers. Cloud-based operations also provide easy, round-the-clock access from any connected device.

Support for Critical Issues

When you're dealing with information technology, expect technical issues to come up. These can be small, easily addressed issues, but you may also run into larger problems. Major issues require quick and effective support. Managed service providers are not only responsive, but they can also bring outside expertise to your organization. Having on-call 24/7 support for critical issues also gives employees peace of mind because they know competent assistance is there when they need it.

Reducing downtime with managed IT typically includes the use of monitoring tools that track the status of an IT infrastructure. With around-the-clock monitoring, providers can spot emerging issues regardless of when the red flags start to pop up. Monitoring is often done using automated tools, but most service providers shore this up with human oversight.

Minimizing Human Error

According to a 2018 survey from ITIC, 59 percent of respondents said human error was the top cause of unplanned downtime at their organization.

Human error that leads to downtime can come in many different forms. Some common mistakes include misconfiguration issues, allowing applications to become outdated, failure to upgrade servers and failure to properly maintain a network.

Misconfiguration is probably one of the more common types of human error. When an IT department is overburdened, employees are less likely to stick to best practices for configuration. Misconfiguration becomes more common when companies don't send their IT staff for regular training and certifications on the newest technologies. Of course, downtime can also be caused by simple mistakes like leaving a guest account open, allowing a server room to overheat, forgetting to monitor server capacity and unplugging power cords.

Managed service providers help to mitigate human error by keeping their technicians up-to-date and properly trained. These technicians can also support your in-house team to make sure they are well-versed in the latest practices. This transfer of knowledge means even more return on the investment in a service provider.

Providers also minimize human error by leveraging automation. Automation is everywhere you look these days, and businesses that don't embrace it risk losing a competitive edge to the competition. While automation can make anyone more efficient, a good service provider takes a targeted approach to adopting new automated tools. 

The best proactive managed IT services use automation and artificial intelligence to complement established processes rather than completely replace them. Automation is capable of producing some impressive results, but for now, humans are still needed to make sure those results are accurate and useful.

Mundane workflows and monitoring tasks are two areas where automation can provide significant value by freeing up humans to handle tasks that AI cannot be trusted to handle.

Predictive Analytics for Early Detection

Businesses in the direct-to-consumer, subscription app and supply chain industries have been using predictive analytics for years. These companies use the technology to predict everything from subscriber churn to logistics demands. But while these industries have been taking a proactive approach through predictive analytics, IT support has largely been sticking to a more reactive approach.

More recently, however, artificial intelligence tools have increasingly been applied to predictive analytics for network maintenance. These tools allow administrators to anticipate and address potential issues before they materialize. Predictive analytics is becoming popular for anticipating network outages, bandwidth issues and lagging application performance. It's also becoming more popular for issues surrounding the network, such as provider sprawl and cost optimization.

Predictive analytics allows for much earlier detection because AI can quickly identify and analyze issues than a human observer. The technology can help technicians understand a root cause and apply a solution much faster than in the past, significantly decreasing downtime. Companies that make the most of predictive analytics for network management stand to significantly reduce costs and gain a major competitive advantage.

Let Us Handle the IT And Reduce Your Network Downtime

At Taylored Systems, our approach to reducing downtime with managed IT services can keep you up and running. Our managed services include a combination of IT consulting, cybersecurity, hardware solutions and software solutions. 

For companies looking to go beyond simply preventing downtime, our business IT services can provide a comprehensive review of your current capabilities and offer recommendations on where to boost capabilities for better performance.

We also specialize in providing cloud storage and data backup solutions that can be customized to both maintain productivity and minimize downtime. Our cloud services include providing a virtual data center and working with your IT staff to migrate your data to the cloud where it is easily accessible. We will continue to work with your company after the migration to ensure that your storage and backup solutions are working properly.

For three decades, we've provided technical services to a number of different sectors. We understand the regulatory requirements for government IT services. We have deep experience with the critical functions and privacy aspects of healthcare IT. Our technicians are also highly competent when it comes to both financial services and school IT services.

If you would like to learn more about what Taylored Systems can do for your IT capabilities, contact us today.