Creating a cultural shift to mitigate the cost of network downtime

Richard Thomas · 22 March 2021 · 1 minute read

Your network has never been more important to the health of your business.

According to ITIC, a consultancy firm, in 2020 40 per cent of respondents worldwide reported that one hour of enterprise server downtime would cost their business more than US$1 million.  

Yet, despite increasing focus on network availability and resiliency, rarely a month passes without a major network outage occurring somewhere around the world.

The impact of the wide-ranging move to remote working in the aftermath of the pandemic has refocused organisational priorities. In a decentralised world, organisations only empower employees and engage with customers effectively when their network is running – and running at its best.

The good news is that businesses have largely identified their network as a mission-critical part of their infrastructure, and they are investing both to protect it – and to mitigate their potential losses. 

Recent Telstra research found that APAC businesses said investing in services to prevent IT downtime was their top method of managing costs in a post-COVID climate. 

While it’s encouraging that enterprises are investing in their networks, often the reasons for downtime are well known – and can be prevented. 

In fact, the majority of the time for corporate offices, network downtime will be the result of a few common issues. The most pressing is the issue of unknown single points of failure, where a lack of visibility across the entirety of the network ecosystem results in a lack of redundancy in one or more places, often occurring in the last mile. 

The problem is significant. Our investigations into customer incidents found that unknown single points of failure are responsible for an estimated 40% of network downtime.

Managing costs in the current climate

APAC (N=420)

Methods to manage costs Percentage
Investing in services to prevent IT downtime 58%
Streamlining technology solutions 57%
Exploring flexible financing options 49%
Cultivating fiscal discipline at an employee level 40%
Reviewing existing vendors 35%
Reviewing hiring policies 31%
Consolidating headcount 29%

For customers yet to transform to an SD-WAN solution, configuration errors also pose a threat to your network, causing an estimated 20% of network downtime. As WANs continue to expand to encompass greater use of cloud services, more and more individual configurations across network layers are required – exponentially increasing the potential for manual error or simply not testing failover processes.

And that’s not all. Organisations need to factor in the potential for power outages or defective hardware as drivers of network downtime too. 

So, what can businesses do about these known issues?

The key is instilling a culture of proactive prevention across the entire organisation, beginning with the network, IT, and engineering teams.

For example, Telstra is spearheading the drive to instil a mindset that ‘prevention is better than the cure’ through an approach called Zero Preventable Downtime.

The framework drives best-practice behaviour in a range of ways, focusing on learning from experiences, significantly increasing the transparency of network paths end-to-end, and understanding issues and challenges affecting the network at both the design stage and the delivery stage, for example.

Then the key is to embed downtime mitigation activities across design, delivery and operations. To do that, Telstra ensures robust controls are in place to provide evidence of diversity at the design & delivery stages, periodically runs preventative audits, and integrates technology solutions to reduce risk and increase availability.

But what does that look like in a real business?

As an example, take one of the world’s most innovative healthcare manufacturers.

Telstra implemented the ‘zero preventable downtime’ framework to drive a real mindset change, the team worked hand-in-hand with the customer to reduce Network Downtime by over 50% over a period of 12-months.

Following a range of workshops and audits, the team began integrating ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) and Zero Preventable Downtime frameworks to proactively identify potential network issues. Ultimately, the customer was able to create preventative solutions to solve problems before they manifested themselves into costly downtime.

What is clear is that each individual tactic is less important than the over-arching culture the healthcare manufacturer was able to create.

In a world of rapid digital change that is increasingly dependent on networks always being on, our collective ambition for 100% application availability requires a change of mindset from every business and every employee. That means investing the same resources on learning from the past as you do in anticipating potential future causes of downtime, and it means taking preventative measures from day one. Only then can we truly mitigate the risk – and cost – of network downtime.

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