I’ve noticed a long term trend among business owners and “C” level officers. In the budget squeeze of the last few years, servers and other essential computer equipment that have been reliable, have been left to run on their own. Service contracts expire, software and hardware reach and extend past end of life. People think of their edge devices, i-things and droids as the essential computer equipment and don’t care much, or give a thought to the systems and infrastructure behind them. While the devices you hold in your hand have become an easily replaceable commodity, the servers and infrastructure are a bit more complex.
I lived the example this week. In a moment of bad judgment, at the nagging of my droid, I let it apply an update. Turned out to be ‘ice cream sandwich’ which clobbered all of my contacts / email and changed the interface so I couldn’t find any programs. After a two hour call to Verizon, they were able to restore my settings to a previous state stored on their backend server. I had never really given a thought to their server before.
‘My server hasn’t broken yet so it is more reliable today than it was yesterday.’
While it’s true that computer equipment is pretty reliable these days, what is not true is that it gets more reliable over time. It is our perception that if it didn’t break yesterday that it won’t break today, but the truth is that it is a physical machine and with each passing day the risk goes up. Equipment itself changes, and you might find that WHEN your old server fails, there is no fast and easy (inexpensive) path to replace it.
RESPONSE TIME – SLA
Do you have a service contract in place on your core equipment? Do you have a relationship with the hardware/software vendor? Service Level Agreements (or SLAs) mean that someone who CAN help you, has the obligation to help you within a set period of time. That’s time when you can’t do business. One of the first things to go in a tight economy is the support agreement. So WHEN your infrastructure breaks instead of help answering your call, you find yourself having to FIRST establish a relationship with someone who can get things going again. It’s very frustrating for all involved to deal with negotiating contracts when the goal is to get the business going again.
WHY USE COMPUTERS IN THE FIRST PLACE?
We take computer systems for granted. We use them because they eliminate duplication of data and labor. They allow us to do processes more efficiently with less people, and in many cases they allow us to do volume and complex business that we could not do without them. So what do you need to focus on as you whistle past the graveyard?
COST OF DOWNTIME
Downtime due to a computer failure costs you the time of one person. When a server or core component fails the entire company stops. The cost of downtime is the addition of
- Staff drinking coffee instead of working.
- Cost of finding and getting new hardware in a hurry.
- Cost of finding and getting expertise in a hurry.
- Cost of all the opportunity you lost while you couldn’t do business.
LENGTH OF DOWNTIME
- How long does it take to get a new server or component?
- How long does it take to install all the programs, data and configurations onto the new server IF there are no compatibility issues?
- How long does it take to mobilize the expertise to do the labor?
- How long does it take to catch up with the lost time?
So when you multiply the cost of downtime by the length of downtime you determine whether or not your business can afford the cost. The alternative is to be prepared with the appropriate SLAs and relationships in place. Part of that preparation is to budget for regular maintenance, service contracts and replacement of old hardware/software.