Problems with Downtime

Downtime is the period when a system is unable to perform its primary function rendering it unavailable for use. The system failing to function is often the result of either scheduled maintenance or an unplanned event such as system and communication failures, software bugs, human error equipment failure, overload, a cascading failure, equipment failure, malfunction, high bit error rate or power failure. Downtime, especially unplanned, can have severe impacts on business.

There are two aspects as to how individuals or organizations are affected by downtime:
  • Timing of downtime – during peak business hours or during a popular shopping day
  • Length of an outage – amount of time to recover the problem
Within an increasingly fast business world, most companies will not tolerate downtime longer than a few hours. For this reason, downtime is measured in minutes and hours, not days.

Primary Problems with Downtime
Since the Internet is a 24/7 operation, corporations (both e-commerce and physical locations) can lose massive amounts of business if down for an extended period of time. Since users are unable to utilize a website and businesses are unable to access online information, all functionality is disabled. In the end, this reduces customer satisfaction and in turn financial losses. Once the customer is unable to access the site, they’ll take their business to a site that’s operational. Overall this can severely affect the brand name of the site.

Ultimately, an e-commerce site can lose substantial sales due to downtime. With frequent server failures and an inaccessible website, a site may lose customer loyalty and eventually lose the customer altogether. This can equate to a great deal of money lost throughout the years. Major search engines like Google have in their terms and conditions that pages with a web host down will not index because Googlebot cannot access them. This is extremely detrimental to the health of an e-commerce business.

Physical businesses may also not be able to operate when unplanned downtime strikes. Most corporate systems rely on network connections to move, manipulate and display data across multiple terminals. If the network is unavailable, employees cannot complete their job function thus causing a major loss in time and money. For this reason, scheduled maintenance is performed during off-peak working hours to ensure there is little or no disruption to the majority of employees.

Furthermore, downtime affects human capital as well as assets. If employees are in a meeting and are unable to discuss a topic only available on the network due to outages, this costs the business money. They must now reschedule the meeting once the network is available. This costs the business time and decreases the efficiency and productivity of each employee.

When assets such as production equipment aren’t functional due to network downtime, the business is greatly affected as its losing money by lack of production and isn’t utilizing assets to their full potential. Once the outage is resolved, employees must stay later to operate the equipment causing an increase in employee hours worked and utility bills.

Main Industries Affected by Downtime
Although all industries can be severely affected by extended periods of downtime, some are hit harder than others. For example:
  • Medical informatics – Used to optimized the storage of medical information, if down hospitals and healthcare facilities cannot access this information and lives can be affected
  • Nuclear power plants and other infrastructure – Relies on functioning servers to provide services for millions of residents in a region, if down, power can be lost and day to day functions interrupted
  • Banks and financial institutions – Hold important and private data for customers, if down customers cannot make purchases and transactions
  • Airlines – Thousands of flights are active throughout each day, if servers are unavailable, plane equipment will not function properly while in the air and on the ground thus impacting many lives
  • News reporting – When servers are unavailable, news cannot be communicated through the Internet or even on television
  • Persistent online games – With millions of gamers worldwide, frequent server problems can cause game companies to lose numerous players
There are three primary problems with downtime: financial loss, time loss, and inefficiency. Since all companies rely heavily on servers being functional to operate their business, any time they are unavailable, the business loses money, loses time and is not operating as efficiently as possible. In this highly competitive market, anytime a customer is unhappy with their service or experience, they have plenty of substitutes available and will become loyal to one that is fully functional.

Hosting companies promise close to 100% uptime indicating close to 0% downtime. Although it is difficult to find a company that offers 100% uptime, vital industries demand perfection from their services. Downtime can wreak havoc in all aspects of business. As technology and processes improve, downtime will be pushed aside for a more robust system.

1Join the discussion



05.10.2010 / 08:24

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