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There’s nothing scarier than a data outage

31 Oct 2018

Without revealing how long ago, Halloween never seemed to be of interest or focus back when I was a kid, nor was the maniacal focus on the Availability and uptime of IT services. Back then, there were always manual processes for a business to fall back on. Today promises to deliver all things scary, with Halloween festivities gearing up down under. 

Whether you’re settling in for a scary movie, trick-or-treating, or pulling out all the stops with a never-seen-before Scream mask, Halloween is the time we all expect to be at least a little bit frightened of the dark!

But as the world stops to dress up as their favourite scary movie character, don’t forget the chilling thought that really keeps business owners up at night; what happens if the lights go out?

Thousands of businesses across Australia depend on a steady supply of data and access to serve their customers and maintain revenue streams. Across the economy, we are continuously putting more and more trust in technology and into the availability of data and digital service. 

But what happens, if this availability fails? How do we safeguard our business data? How do we restore access to services as quickly as possible to minimise cost, consequence and impact?

Protecting data in these instances goes beyond cybersecurity and protection from malicious actors. Attacks like distributed denial of service work on the premise of forcing an outage on an organisation’s operations. But more often, an outage will be the result of a simple gap between user demand and what IT can deliver. 

Beyond the (not insignificant) fact of user frustration that might result from the lights going out, there are pretty frightening business consequences.

Availability shortfalls are not only extremely common, but they’re costing businesses a lot of money globally. The average global cost of ‘downtime’ for mission-critical applications reaches over $100,000 per hour. Needless to say, there aren’t many companies out there that can easily shoulder these kinds of incidental costs. 

Data availability is starting to stretch beyond the world of business and IT. As we connect more and more devices, our critical data sprawl and grow even further. Data access outages don’t just cause business consequences, They can bring whole cities, government departments and/or multinational networks to a halt.

More than 50 cities around the world are already testing Autonomous Vehicles, with plans to revolutionise the supply chain and cause huge knock-on effects on traffic flows and the workings of a city. All these vehicles rely on data availability to function safely and successfully. 

On top of that, we are increasingly seeing smart cities crop up, where utilities such as water and electricity provision can be automated and streamlined with the help of ‘always-on’ data availability. Healthcare is also adopting technology to improve patient services: My Health Records are a great example of where data availability can deliver on a large scale.

Stop to imagine what a data outage could look like, a city brought to a complete halt, like a scene out of a horror movie – no power, no hospitals, no transport.

Even in the context of an unavoidable natural disaster, such as major flooding, a loss of data availability from an outage becomes less a prospect of lost dollars and something far more serious. 

In these cases, the everyday value of data is put into stark perspective – but it shouldn’t take a large-scale outage or a high-profile data disaster to make IT managers properly consider the importance of availability to their digital transformation plans. 

If businesses want to commit to providing an ‘always on’ service to their customers, then they need to focus on the planning and implementation of their availability solutions and avoid the pitfalls of unplanned downtime.

Article by Nathan Steiner, Head of Systems Engineering, Veeam Software

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