The causes of network downtime: What are they!?

Network downtime is never good – when IT stops, business stops. IT failure and unexpected downtime is one of the biggest issues in today digitally advanced business environment. Disruption, even if only for a few minutes, can have an enormous impact, regardless of the size of your network and the type of business.

The gravitas of an outage, Gartner suggests, costs a business on average around $5,600 per minute. Beyond the direct loss in revenue and sales which can be crippling, downtime has a ripple effect across multiple areas of your business resulting in:

  • Inefficiency
  • Lost productivity
  • Bad user experience
  • Damaged company reputation

All of which incurs enormous cost, so it’s not surprising that network failure can effectively be the reason your business shuts down.

Understanding the deterrents to maximising uptime is important, as is proactively addressing these trouble areas.  While downtime at some point is an inevitable evil, you can eliminate many of the frequent issues from reoccurring, and when an unexpected outage does happen, you’re better equipped to get your network back up and running as efficiently as possible.

So, the big question is – what are the common culprits that cause unexpected downtime and network outages? And what can you do to avoid them?

Causes of network downtime: What are they?

1. Human error:

The leading cause of outages are unintentional human mistakes.  Given the complexity of network systems, this often relates to how systems, software and technology is being configured and administered. 

Even a simple mistake like pulling out the wrong plug can be the primary cause of an unexpected outage.

Many of these issues can be avoided through support from outsourced IT expertise, proper staff training and implementing the right processes and documented procedures. 

There are also times when network admins make changes without having consider all the “what-if” scenarios, which in turn leads to an outage.  These outages can be avoided by using automation tools and simulating network changes to study their impact rather than relying on setting parameters manually.

IT failure and unexpected downtime, even if only for a few minutes, can incur enormous cost - sometimes obvious, but often hidden. Sometimes a failure can effectively shut down your business.

2. Failed hardware:

Downtime can often occur either when new hardware is installed incorrectly or they are defective or when older hardware becomes prone to standard wear and tear. Most networks have a reasonable amount of redundancy built in, but it’s still common to see hardware that’s a single point of failure.

Server instability can also cause an outage - typically happening when IT teams attempt to marry new technology with old hardware and incompatible operating systems.

It’s important to keep both your hardware up-to-date, replacing it within its recommended life-cycle and stay on top of software updates.

You can reduce the impact of device failure through regular monitoring giving you 24x7 visibility to potential issues. Preventative maintenance and patch management will help extend shelf life and minimise the risk of unnecessary equipment failures from disrupting the entire network.

Hardware failures can never be completely dispelled, so, it’s good practice to have a well-documented disaster recovery plan in place that will help minimise outage time.

[Expert Guide] The 5 key principles to effective network monitoring »

3. Power failures:

This can occur as a result of environmental issues (e.g. a lightning strike) but equally when there are problems like power surges or short circuits that disable routers and switches, it’s obviously important to have backup UPS (uninterruptible power supply) to prevent a power outage from shutting you down.

Make sure one circuit can provide adequate power by itself, and that the circuits have as few components in common as possible. Connect redundant devices to different power circuits to ensure a single circuit outage doesn’t shut down a service entirely. If prioritisation of backup power supply is required, focus on critical servers and network devices, along with your network monitoring system.

4. Security flaws:

Failure to frequently update to the latest OS or deprioritising proper patch management leads to vulnerability in a network.

With DDoS attacks on the rise, this creates opportunity for hackers to enter via the LAN or WAN, designed to overload pipes and take entire systems off line, all resulting in downtime.

Albeit less common, defective software stops work just the same - applications and databases may become infected with viruses or malware as part of a phishing campaign, undermining network stability and rendering key business tools inoperable.

Whether you outsource cyber security or manage threats in-house it’s vital to proactively stay on top of the latest cyber-threats with appropriate security controls, technologies and processes.

» Deklan Van De Laarschot talks about typical causes of network downtime he's seen.

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Avoiding network downtime

> Proactive network monitoring

An IT teams’ worst nightmare is getting that call saying that their network is down but there is a lot that can be done to avoid network downtime and build infrastructure resilience. Proactively monitoring the overall health of your internal network as well as regular preventative maintenance goes a long way to minimising the risk of failure – BEFORE you get a call to say that the network is down.

However, even with the best internal precautions in place, it’s not possible to avoid downtime entirely or to predict exactly when an IT outage will happen and but once it does, the clock starts ticking – the longer it takes to resolve, the more it costs your business.

> Know who to call for help

Few organisations have the luxury of their own 24x7 Network Monitoring or IT Service Desk or even a designated ‘on-call’ IT engineer available outside the regular 9-to-5, so it can be a smart move to call on a specialist 24x7 NOC service provider who will provide a highly cost-effective safety net – providing as much or a little support as you need. This could be fully 24x7 or simply during ‘out of hours’ or weekends.

Ultimately their purpose is to ensure your network is running smoothly and any issues are identified and resolved as soon as they hit the surface.

Comtact's Network Operations Centre (NOC)

A highly effective & cost-effective safety net

Bespoke to your needs, providing as much (or as little) support as you need, an outsourced specialist Network Operations service provider can be a smart move to help you maintain uptime, build resilience and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your organisation.

No business is completely immune to unexpected downtime but, there’s a lot that can be done to reduce the number of incidents, time and associated costs. And ultimately ensure the revenue health of your business, including crucial factors such as brand reputation and customer loyalty.

 


Read our expert guide: The 5 key principles of effective network monitoring »

Discover the key principles of network monitoring to maximise up-time, build resilience and improve user experience in today's 24/7 world.

5 key principles of IT network monitoring guide V1

Learn about:

  • How to eliminate downtime and improve user experience - without doubling your resource.
  • Tips to help to minimise false alerts to quickly detect, diagnose, and resolve network performance problems and outages.
  • Practical steps to establishing the right network monitoring approach to improve network performance and avoid costly downtime.

Further reading:

[Case study]  IT infrastructure monitoring service helps 45,000+ University students

[eBook]  The 5 key principles of effective network monitoring

[Article]  10 signs you're not using the best network monitoring tools

[Article]  6 big reasons why you should outsource your SolarWinds management

[Article]  Benefits of an outsourced Network Operations Centre (NOC)

 


About Comtact Ltd.

Comtact Ltd. is a government-approved Cyber Security and Network Operations IT Managed Service Provider, supporting clients 24/7 from our ISO27001-accredited UK Network Operations (NOC) and Security Operations Centre (SOC).

Located at the heart of a high security, controlled-access Tier 3 data centre, Comtact's state-of-the-art UK Operations Centre helps support and secure some of the UK's leading organisations, large and small.

Explore our 24/7 Network Operations Centre (NOC)

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