May 18, 2018
Erica Antony

How to mitigate unplanned downtime & succeed in the experience economy

It’s a new world. Today, it’s simply not enough to offer an outstanding product or service. To be competitive and retain customer loyalty, you must deliver an exceptional experience across every user touchpoint, as well.

And, unfortunately, that’s proving to be a real challenge for midsize businesses and decentralized organizations, like yours–you’re increasingly expected to deliver enterprise-level availability without the enterprise-level budgets to match.

So, how do you avoid disaster and retain customer loyalty?

It’s possible, and we offer the practical guidance to get you there.

Consider your downtime tolerance

Unplanned downtime can cripple your organization. Just ask TSB Bank. Now entering the fourth week of its international news-making IT meltdown, and with some worried a full return to service may be months away, the institution has been hammered by 40,000 customer complaints.

Of course, a downtime event doesn’t have to make global news to have a negative impact on your business.

According to our recent survey of more than 600 channel partners and IT decision makers, 79 percent of your peers categorized their data as mission- or business-critical. Yet, less than 15 percent felt confident in their ability to recover that data in the face of an unplanned downtime event. What’s more, 56 percent of respondents shared they don’t have a DR plan in place and, of those who do, only 31 percent execute DR tests more than once a year.

In short, these organizations haven’t appropriately mapped their SLAs to their business requirements–and tested them.

The potential cost of this failure?

An ITIC survey estimates the average hourly cost of downtime at:

  • $300K+ per hour for 81% of businesses
  • $1M+ for 33% of corporate survey respondents
  • $5M+ for highly-regulated industries, like banking, healthcare, and utilities

The lesson is crystal clear: Backup simply isn’t enough to ensure the continuity of your business.

Mitigate unplanned downtime and avoid the disaster

The problem is clear. Now, where do you start?

Here’s what we recommend:

  1. Document your business objectives. Your IT budget isn’t limitless, of course, and what may be important to one department may not be critical when viewed from a broader business perspective. That’s why it’s so crucial that all stakeholders come to the table. To best protect your organization, your IT investments shouldn’t be driven by IT decisions, but by business ones.
  2. Document your availability requirements. In order to arrive at a solution that will affordably ensure your business continuity, map out every server, application, software solution, and data set in your environment–and assign a business-driven downtime tolerance for each. As you do this, be sure to map out your application interdependencies, as well. (Remember: It does you no good to protect your most critical application with near-zero RPOs and RTOs if the other apps in the value chain are down for hours.) With this insight in hand, you’ll be equipped to make some decisions about how to leverage your IT budget.
  3. Rethink your RPOs. Most data protection vendors today can promise RTOs of less than 15 minutes. Unfortunately, some organizations believe that, with an unplanned downtime tolerance of 30 minutes or more, they’re covered. What they may be forgetting is that, while they can recover their data in 15 minutes, the data they’re recovering could be 12 – 24 hours old, if they’re like many of the IT professionals we just surveyed. This represents a disastrous loss of business activity. Reach out to your data protection vendor to see what solutions they offer that will affordably deliver RPOs of minutes.
  4. Carefully consider your ROI. When pitching IT upgrades to the C-suite, you may sometimes face resistance to your budget request. In those cases, it’s important to shift the conversation to risk avoidance. Disaster recovery is your insurance should something go wrong–and it’s a critical investment in the health of your organization. Remind the one who holds the purse strings what it would cost your business if your critical systems were down for an extended period of time, or if you lost them for good.
  5. Test your disaster recovery solution. It’s not enough to implement a robust DR solution; you must test it, too. Regular DR testing will help determine if you can deliver against your SLAs, and it will help you identify issues in your recoverability before a real disaster strikes. And, with automated, application-level DR testing, these tests are easy to execute and the data they provide are invaluable.
  6. DR test your people. When your most critical application goes down, every second counts. That’s why executing disaster recovery drills for your IT professionals is equally important. These tests will help you identify the people who need more training, as well as DR processes that need refinement.
  7. Update your SLAs as your business changes. It’s not uncommon for busy organizations to invest in a robust disaster recovery plan, but fail to update it as their business needs change. And, this can leave your business vulnerable. If your existing plan is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of your business, we encourage you to work with your data protection vendor to implement a cloud component to your DR plan. Rapidly evolving cloud storage technologies and faster bandwidth speeds mean the barrier to entry for both hybrid infrastructure and DRaaS solutions are all but gone for most businesses.

Succeeding in the experience economy

As customers increasingly expect enterprise-level availability and tap-of-the-touchscreen service, organizations like yours will be pressed to deliver.

The good news is that new cloud-based technologies are making RPOs of minutes an reality. And, when implemented alongside disaster recovery best practices, you’ll be equipped to avoid the disastrous consequences of unplanned downtime and data loss.

And, you won’t have to have deep enterprise-level pockets to do it.