Common Causes of System Downtime

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By Bob Milliken

A recent industry report (published by Quorum) has highlighted the four most common reasons for system downtime. The findings reveal that, while “natural disasters tend to take center stage when considering the causes of downtime, hardware and software failures and human error are statistically more common.” In fact, hardware failures alone comprise more than one-half of disasters for small to mid-sized businesses. Given that it takes an average of 30 hours for recovery (according to IT managers), small to mid-sized businesses are at risk of losing customers, their reputation and hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

The Four Most Common Causes Of System Downtime Are

Hardware failure
At 55 percent, hardware failure is the number one cause of downtime for small to mid-sized businesses. With several levels of redundancy of various components — such as multiple power supplies, network controllers, raid systems and hard drives — it may seem like your bases are covered. Still, like any other disaster, no one can predict when the air conditioning will fail on a hot day, what unforeseen event will trigger a widespread power outage, or which cords the resident rodent will chew through.

Storage-area network (SAN) devices, external hard drives, and tapes are among the hardware-failure disasters many small to mid-sized businesses experience. In fact they constitute a significant risk to disaster recovery and it’s not uncommon for them for them to fail when needed most – during recovery.

Human error
According to the report 22% of disasters are caused by human error. This could include accidentally wiping out a file system on a server. While something like this may be considered a ‘rookie move,’ it’s not necessarily relegated exclusively to rookies; many a senior executive has deleted a critical file at a critical time. By using a disaster recovery system that is based on full and rapid recovery, the recovery of valuable correspondence and avoidance of certain personal disaster is possible.

Software failure
Software failure ranks third in overall disasters at 18 %, and it’s no wonder, given the number of patches routinely sent out. The issue lies in the lack of attention to testing patches before they are sent out, resulting in corruption of applications that can bring down entire systems or make them otherwise unavailable.

Operating systems that have been limping along for some time and finally die also contribute greatly to software failure. And we cannot overlook the impact viruses and malware have, of course.

Natural disasters
Since tornadoes, earthquakes and the like are often the first that come to mind when we consider the word ‘disaster,’ it’s ironic that natural disasters comprise a mere 5 percent of actual causes of downtime. Still, their effects are obviously without parallel.

To learn more about how you can protect your business from unexpected disasters, give us a call at 604.270.1730 and we’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

Your comments are appreciated – ComputerCents@CascadiaSystemsGroup.com