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Exploring System Availability: What Can’t You Live Without?

By the DynaSis Team

In our last article, we talked about some important technology assessments and their value to your business and IT success. In this article, we’ll talk about another type of IT assessment― establishing a workable goal for the level of “uptime” (technology continuity) you require.

Ultimate availability, in the technology world, is 99.999% uptime. At that level, companies should have barely five minutes of unplanned downtime (system outage), per year. In reality, obtaining such an uptime figure is prohibitively expensive for the average business. Even dropping a decimal―to 99.99% (approximately an hour of yearly downtime)―doesn’t reduce the cost substantially.

So, how can you decide where your business falls, on the scale of attaining maximum uptime and productivity? In our viewpoint, a more realistic goal for many businesses is 99.9% uptime or better. At that level, a company can anticipate fewer than nine hours of unplanned downtime each year.

Some companies decide they can live with even more downtime. At 99% downtime, businesses experience approximately 87 hours of downtime, per year. We don’t recommend any business set its bar so low, especially if it relies heavily upon technology. Nevertheless, every business owner has to decide what is appropriate for his or her firm. Some business owners find a happy medium by opting for higher availability for mission-critical systems like email, but accepting a higher level of risk and downtime for information they can go a day or two without.

Beyond deciding how much downtime you can live with, also consider how much business disruption you can tolerate. Given that the work day consumes only one-third of each 24-hour period and most firms are closed on weekends, most business owners might assume that with 99% uptime, they would experience far less than one-third of their 87 hours of downtime during the working day. In many cases, they would be wrong.

The reality is that systems tend to fail when they are under heavy load. In many cases, issues can arise at night or over the weekend, but only when workers start using their systems do those issues cause trouble. If an IT provider proactively monitors your network and systems 24/7, troubleshooting and resolving issues as they arise, there is a good chance most of your downtime will happen when the office is closed.

If your provider doesn’t guarantee after-hours monitoring and problem resolution, then system glitches and issues may result in office-hours disruption while you wait for a technician to arrive. Furthermore, your availability figures may be skewed unfairly in the provider’s favor, because the provider also may not be monitoring your availability after hours or on weekends. As a result, no downtime that occurs outside business hours will count in any performance penalties you negotiate.

Finally, many IT providers exclude “planned” downtime (such as system maintenance) from their uptime guarantee. Before you sign with a company that takes that approach, be sure they’ll perform your system maintenance after hours or on weekends, or your total downtime figure could soar.

In the final analysis, finding your “sweet spot” for system availability requires more than deciding what level of unplanned downtime you can live with. It also involves partnering with a provider (or hiring an in-house team) that supports your goal in the least disruptive manner possible.

If you’d like to learn more about how the IT industry approaches downtime, as well as other considerations for achieving IT continuity without unpleasant surprises, fill out our inquiry form or give us a call at (770) 569-4600.

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