Business

Downtime Blues: What Unexpected Tech Interruptions Cost Businesses

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Most of us have come to expect and live with a few tech hiccups every day. Maybe a smartphone app glitches and causes your phone to freeze; maybe your Wi-Fi flows like molasses from 10AM to noon; maybe your computer decides to update and restart of its own accord. Technology betrays us, and we move on.

Except – for businesses, those minor betrayals can add up. Whenever technology doesn’t work the way it should in the workplace, workers are not operating at peak productivity, which means the business is losing money. Because so much of modern business is reliant on technology, there are serious repercussions for unplanned downtime, and as a business leader, you should know all about it.

What Happens During Downtime?

Downtime can occur in myriad ways, from a server running slowly to a website crashing to a device showing the blue screen of death. Depending on what systems and services go down, different situations could emerge – and all of them are bad. For example:

  • Without business applications: You could lose CRM, crippling your access to customer information; you could lose ERP, thwarting informed business decisions; you could lose data collection and analysis, making accurate reporting impossible.
  • Without technology services: Your communication could drop to zero as email, instant messaging, phone, and fax go down; you could lose other vital intranet services, such as digital files that have replaced hard copies.
  • Without infrastructure: You lose everything. When critical systems fail, your business will grind to a complete halt. What’s more, there might be physical damage to your systems, which will perpetuate downtime and add significant costs.

It’s safe to say that when downtime occurs, your employees aren’t doing much – and you can’t fault them for it.

What Costs Do Businesses Incur?

Regardless of industry, you can be certain that during downtime your business will experience:

  • Loss of productivity. A non-functional system prevents workers from completing their responsibilities to the best of their abilities.
  • Damage to brand. Downtime prevents businesses from responding to customer requests immediately. Customers who expect prompt service during a downtime period will likely vent their frustration online, impacting your reputation.
  • Loss of customers. It doesn’t take much for a customer to get impatient with a business and find what they need somewhere else.

All of this adds together to result in significant financial losses for a business. One study calculated that application, server, and network downtime cost North American organizations more than $700 billion every year. A typical, mid-sized company could be losing about $1 million per year, and larger enterprises could squander more than $60 million.

While much of this sum is the result of costs incurred through employee overtime wages and system repair and recovery, the bulk of those losses are from the three reasons stated above. Further, if productivity is significantly limited by downtime, organizations may be subjected to lawsuits regarding inability to produce or deliver promised goods or services. Considering these amounts, it is easy to see why downtime is of grave importance – and why you should be doing everything you can to prevent it.

What Can Businesses Do to Stop It?

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, according to the eminent Murphy. There is little a business can do to prevent tech hiccups altogether, but they can certainly refine their response plan to reduce the frequency and duration of downtime.

Perhaps the best solution consists of choosing tech services providers that place strong emphasis on reducing and responding to downtime. For example, you might consider using Cisco services, which have a proven history of reducing downtime, even at large enterprises with thousands of endpoints. If your current communications and network providers are doing little to address your downtime issues, you should probably make a change.

Additionally, you should make the effects of downtime less severe. For one, you can build time buffers into deadlines, so unexpected downtime doesn’t obliterate your schedule. For another, you can build in automatic backups, which will prevent a crash from erasing all your hard work. If you can pick up exactly where you left off, and you have time to spare, then downtime doesn’t do much to impact your work.

No matter what, technology will betray you. Fortunately, you can forgive and forget the betrayal when you have the right planning and tools.

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Melissa Thompson
Melissa is an avid weight lifter, competitive sushi eater, entrepreneur, journalist, and mother of 2. She spends her free time reading vampire novels and thinking up interesting stories for one of her various columns at Forbes, TheNextWeb, and HarcourtHealth.