What Causes Server Downtime (and How to Prevent It From Happening)

What Causes Server Downtime (and How to Prevent It From Happening)

For many Florida businesses that rely heavily on IT, any kind of interruption or failure can lead to serious consequences. If employees lose access to critical IT systems, then they won’t be able to work properly. And if they can’t work properly, then they won’t be able to provide positive experiences to customers — which can result in significant revenue loss.

In fact, a 2019 IBM study found that unplanned downtime costs $9,000 per minute. This shows just how devastating even the shortest server failures can be. It therefore pays to be prepared and ensure that your servers are always fully functioning.

So what exactly are the most common causes of server downtime? And more importantly, what can you do to prevent it? Read on to find out.

Cause No. 1: Human Error

Uptime Institute surveyed thousands of IT professionals throughout 2019 and found that about three out of four data center failures were caused by human error. People committing mistakes, whether through accident or negligence, led to many high-profile outages in the last few years.

Human error encompasses many issues, including common mistakes such as unplugging power cords, adjusting the server room's temperature, and forgetting to monitor disk or server capacity. Beyond careless behavior, ignoring protocols or standards also result in potentially detrimental workplace accidents.

For example, an employee may decide to perform a maintenance procedure from memory and inadvertently shut down the wrong equipment. This tiny mishap can impair operations and cost you thousands of dollars in lost business.

While it’s impossible to completely guard against human error, your business can take steps to reduce the likelihood of issues and increase accountability to avoid server downtime. These include:

  • Documenting important tasks and activities step by step to ensure that standard procedures are properly followed
  • Conducting regular assessments and training for IT staff to help them keep abreast of the latest software updates, device configurations, and security challenges
  • Setting up secure access control policies so only authorized users can access critical data
  • Investing in maintenance automation solutions powered by artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to reduce the risks of human error

Cause No. 2: Cyberattacks

With the ubiquity of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, cybercriminals now have more entry points to infiltrate IT systems. While these devices help in boosting productivity and streamlining operations, they also pose great risks if they’re not adequately secured.

Vulnerabilities create opportunities for threat actors to infiltrate systems, allowing them to steal data, shut down applications, and block access to critical assets with ransomware. Other cybercriminals take control of IoT devices and use these to launch denial-of-service attacks that paralyze and crash servers, resulting in costly downtime.

The key to dealing with the threat of cyberattacks is implementing a proactive security strategy. Consider the following measures:

  • Use firewalls and anti-malware programs to guard against known threats.
  • Perform regular penetration testing to identify weaknesses in your IT infrastructure and patch them before they are exploited.
  • Implement an endpoint detection and response solution to monitor and respond to suspicious activities.

Cause No. 3: Hardware Failure

On top of causing issues such as performance bottlenecks and difficulty running the latest applications, old hardware is more prone to breaking down. That’s why it’s in your best interest to upgrade old machines so they don’t cause bouts of downtime and hinder productivity.

But unfortunately, sometimes equipment just breaks. Servers crash for various reasons, from faulty RAMs and power supply glitches to physically damaged hard drive platters and buggy firmware upgrades. And while predictive analytics can proactively identify issues and estimate when a piece of equipment is due to fail, unexpected hardware failure often leads to downtime.

This is where 24/7 network monitoring comes in — it ensures regularly optimized IT systems and timely hardware repair or replacement to avoid downtime. Turning to cloud solutions is also one way to steer clear of hardware failure.

Instead of having to maintain or replace old systems and machines yourself, you can rely on a cloud service provider (CSP) that uses up-to-date hardware with many built-in redundancies. Although CSPs aren’t completely immune to equipment failures, they have enough fallback measures to keep downtime to a minimum.

Cause No. 4: Software Failure

Unplanned downtime can also occur when operating systems (OS) are updated without proper testing. If critical business applications are incompatible with a newly updated OS, chances are these can become corrupted and bring operations to a screeching halt.

At the same time, updating drivers, firmware, and applications that contain numerous new features can contribute to downtime. Especially if your machines are running low on memory or don’t have enough computing power, then implementing these feature-heavy updates may just slow down or crash your devices. However, not updating is just as problematic. Applications will lack critical security patches or drivers to start, use, and control hardware.

It’s well worth testing and debugging new features and drivers in a pilot network before fully deploying them. You can also create contingency plans for dealing with software failures as well as run tests and simulations so your IT staff know what procedures to follow to avoid downtime.

Cause No. 5: Power Outages

The effects of unexpected power outages vary in severity. For instance, sudden brownouts can cause electrical equipment to malfunction or data to be lost. Meanwhile, extended blackouts can disrupt a business’s ability to deliver products and services.

To prevent the negative impacts of power disruptions, consider using backup power supplies that allow you to safely resume operations. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) device — which helps equipment to stay on temporarily when power is lost — or a backup generator can help mitigate the risks of unplanned downtime.

Don’t forget to stock up on high-quality backup fuel to continue operating your generator in case of lengthy outages.

Cause No. 6: Natural Disasters

Natural disasters account for a low percentage of business downtime, but they still pose significant risks. The loss of critical records, destruction of equipment, and even the condition of the local infrastructure after a calamity (e.g., disrupted power services and inaccessible roads) can exacerbate downtime.

You’ll want to store backup copies of important information in cloud servers and an off-site location to quickly recover essential corporate data and resume business-critical functions after an unexpected event.

What’s great about backing up in the cloud is that modern data centers have extensive safeguards against and strategies for dealing with major natural disasters and more common events like lightning, tornadoes, and wildfires.

Meanwhile, storing your off-site backup at a location at least 500 miles away from your office provides extra assurance in the event of a local disaster.

Planning for backup and disaster recovery as well as business continuity go a long way. With appropriate plans of action designed to prevent or manage various risks, your business will have better control over any kind of disaster.

Cause No. 7: Understaffed IT Departments

Server issues are likely to cause significant downtime if a business doesn’t have enough staff to monitor or manage its IT environment. This is because there are many different tasks required to keep networks, applications, and servers fully functioning.

It’s essential that you hire a dedicated team that can manage your business’s IT needs. Better yet, partner with a trusted managed services provider like Integrated Computer Services.

Our technicians are specially trained to prevent IT failures from happening. Even better, we proactively maintain your systems to reduce unplanned downtime, helping you secure revenue as well as employee and customer satisfaction.

For a fixed monthly fee, our expert technicians at Integrated Computer Services will proactively monitor and maintain your network, resolve issues immediately, and help you plan for your company’s future growth. As a result, you’ll experience little to no downtime, reduced operating expenses, and increased productivity and revenue. Get your FREE consultation today.

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