The system downtime and availability relationship
Uptime, downtime, system availability, and Five9’s uptime are intertwined in a complex and interdependent relationship. Each business network is distinct, interrelated, and extremely important in this digital age.
How long a business network is non-responsive, slow, or completely unusable impacts end-user productivity and experience. Customers left hanging on a website, not receiving a timely response, will go elsewhere quickly. Poor network performance over time is critical to business growth in today’s digital economy.
This guide describes system downtime, availability, uptime, and tips for using technology to reduce the impact on systems, customers, and profits.
Understanding system availability and downtime
System availability refers to the time a network is operational without interruption. Similarly, uptime is a term frequently used by cloud service providers or cloud-based apps to describe system availability per quarter. Most cloud service providers have contractual SLAs that indicate the amount of acceptable uptime or downtime.
Downtime is the amount of time per quarter a system is unavailable or down. Downtime often occurs temporarily for significant system updates. Unplanned downtime may also be associated with security incidents or unexpected system failures. High availability and uptime are good - downtime is bad for everyone.
Five9s availability equates to systems where the uptime percentage is 99.999%, not quite perfect at 100% but certainly close. At Five9’s availability a system or app is only down less than 78 seconds in 3 months. Availability is critical for many industries including healthcare, education, public service access, emergency, the military, retail, and financial services.
Best practices for maintaining system availability
The best part about system availability is its manageability. Although some downtime occurrences are unexpected, most system uptime and downtime are manageable. Best practices for improving system availability and reducing downtime include continuous monitoring of network hardware and software.
Another option is making use of failure codes is essential because they help triage unplanned downtime and get systems back online faster. Build in defined failure codes to help cut the time needed to fix the system and get it back up and running.
Next, optimize maintenance. Proactive and preventative system maintenance means addressing issues before they impact system availability. Develop maintenance SOPs and procedural checklists to document system operations. Documentation helps ensure whoever is maintaining the system does it correctly.
Implement continuous system monitoring so that if a problem occurs or a system failure is detected, IT is alerted immediately through SMS or other message systems. Keep track of all system failures to create a knowledge base of possible system errors and their remedies. The more you know, the faster the system gets fixed.
Strategies for reducing downtime
Downtime negatively impacts business in many ways: disruption, reputational damage, customer churn, end-user productivity, and revenue loss. Part of business disruption includes IT employees rushing and fixing the system. Fixing downtime issues is priority one, which means the rest of the work takes a back seat. That’s another hit to employee productivity besides all the employees now not working because the system is down.
Implementing a disaster recovery or incident response plan is crucial. A plan helps team members understand where to start and what exact steps to follow. Planning enables downtime incidences to be fixed faster.
Next, practice clear and frequent communication about system failures. Discover the root cause and document the fix. The more incidents are known and documented, the less likely they’ll re-occur at the same level.
Work to eliminate single points of failure within your system infrastructure. For servers, ensure load balancing is used along with making routine data backups, and SOPs for system deployments. Prevent downtime by using the correct procedures to ensure the system is designed and maintained on time.
Metrics for measuring uptime
Measuring uptime means tracking and documenting system availability each quarter. That said, uptime and availability metrics are not the same thing. Uptime does not mean availability. Measuring uptime means calculating the percentage of time the system operates under normal circumstances. Uptime measures system reliability.
Metrics for measuring availability tell you the probability the system is available when needed. Availability is overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and total effective equipment performance (TEEP). Measuring uptime and availability may give you a green light for SLAs or performance metrics, but if user experience suffers you may be a victim of the watermelon effect.
The watermelon effect is when your IT metrics are green and meet requirements, but the customer experience is poor, or red. Unsatisfied customers take business elsewhere. Take metrics seriously and fix issues as quickly as possible. Consider surveying or speaking to customers to measure customer experience. Using both sets of metrics to correct and monitor issues prevents the watermelon effect.
Leveraging technology for uptime
Need to increase uptime and availability, or reduce system downtime? Look to leverage technology and tools across the network. Review IT maintenance schedules and procedures and practice proactive and preventative maintenance. Ensure all systems including hardware and software are continuously monitored and save issues or incidences for historical knowledge. Prepare and train employees on two disaster/recovery plans. Never hurts to have a plan A and a plan B.
Using technology helps monitor and maintain systems on schedule. Additionally, software tools can alert when potential issues arise, or systems fail with alerts on the system as well as through SMS messaging. Reach IT professionals immediately to help resolve issues efficiently. Using microservices may help manage software. Instead of placing everything in one infrastructure, microservice may provide an effective way to spread out your system for greater uptime or reliability.
Keep in mind downtime is most often caused by human error, like an incorrect procedure or deploying wrong or defective code. Test all changes and manage them by tracking errors and fixing them. Think of it as measuring twice, cut once. Creating SOPs for all procedures also helps not only transfer knowledge but provides reliable information for employees to work from.
Overcoming system availability obstacles
The largest obstacles to system availability are complexity, people, and time. System downtime, uptime, and availability are all interconnected and impacted by the complexity of the network and the way it is managed.
If your IT department is stretched thin, consider outsourcing to take advantage of preventive and proactive maintenance, as well as continuous system monitoring. Technology can help keep your tech stack available, accessible, and up 99.999% of the time. More uptime means increased productivity and a positive customer experience.
Allari keeps system uptime and availability high. Allari can assess your current technology and IT infrastructure and advise on changes that move you towards Five 9s. Ensure your business uses its technology for maximum system performance, reliability, and availability.
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