Downtime can be divided into two categories: planned and unplanned.

Planned downtime is usually associated with systems maintenance, which was a common requirement for previous generations of servers. However, the nature of today’s global business environment — which runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — makes it difficult for organizations to justify even small windows of planned downtime.

Unplanned downtime can potentially affect any number of business-critical functions — and can occur at any time of day. For this reason, unplanned downtime can have a number of economically costly ramifications for the business, including the following:

Revenue loss:  Unplanned downtime is felt most directly and immediately when it occurs in revenue-producing, customer-facing systems. As businesses of all varieties automate their business functions, revenue loss from downtime is not limited merely to industries such as financial services and ecommerce; rather, it can be felt in enterprises in nearly any industry. For mission-critical workloads in many large enterprises, the real cost of downtime can often be measured in millions of dollars per hour.

Reduced user productivity:  Users across an organization, from employees to contractors and partners, rely on IT-delivered services and applications for their business productivity. Downtime can greatly reduce their productivity, and for many knowledge workers, downtime in just the right (or wrong) systems can cause their workday to grind to a halt.

Customer disruption and reputational damage:  Even when downtime occurs in systems that are not directly revenue producing (for example, if it happens in customer service or support systems), customers can still suffer from the disruption and the damage that can occur to the organization’s reputation. Sufficiently provoked, dissatisfied customers can take their business elsewhere, and poor word of mouth can cause future sales to suffer.

Resources required to isolate and repair issues:  The cost of downtime also extends to the personnel and resources required to find, troubleshoot, and fix the issue. Postmortem analysis must also be completed, siphoning off dozens of hours of productive IT staff time that could be spent on more strategic projects.

Overprovisioning of resources to compensate: Many organizations guard against unplanned downtime by overprovisioning server, network, and storage resources; building redundancy into their systems; and keeping pools of hotswappable hardware on hand. This is expensive, not only in terms of the additional equipment that must be purchased and maintained but also in terms of the additional staff hours required to set up and maintain that equipment and the extra network and storage resources that must be kept online.

How to prevent unplanned downtime

Option 1

Many organizations choose to build redundancy into the computing environment, but many approaches can be taken to achieve this goal. One way is to build duplicate datacenters with the ability to provide failover between the two. This can be seen as a form of insurance against natural disasters or outages that might disable one datacenter — but not others.

Option 2

Another, less costly, approach is to make sure that each server node is resilient as a standalone computing component. This is particularly important for servers that are running large databases or important enterprise applications that are being accessed by hundreds or thousands of end users. Any downtime for these types of servers would have far-reaching effects across the organization.

A recent IDC Mission-Critical Workloads Study determined that the majority of respondents (59.1%) prefer to have high availability solutions for their server systems at the hardware level rather than at the software or middleware layer. Embedding Reliability, Availability and Serviceability (RAS) capabilities in the hardware platform means that less IT staff time will be devoted to one-off customization of software scripts to manage a failover or restart of a critical application on alternate server resources.

Option 3

A third approach is to install availability and clustering software, which ensures that applications continue to run — even if they have to be shifted to other servers or to other sites. Usually, this type of software can work with both physical servers and virtual servers, giving the choice of a restart for physical machines or virtual machines (VMs). However, there generally is a short period of failover time for the restart, and the alternate server needs to access the production data, most likely via a switchable, or replicated, copy of that data.


In an increasingly global business environment in which employees, customers, and business partners need to access critical applications at any time of the day or night, downtime of any type — planned or unplanned — can be extremely costly. Downtime can start with a small problem and end up costing an organization millions of dollars a day in lost revenue. That’s why many organizations are looking for server solutions that offer high-availability features, built-in hardware-based RAS features, and support for disaster recovery to help them maintain business resilience.

Schedule a consultation today to learn about various solutions that can help your business avoid the costly effects of unplanned downtime.

If you liked this blog, you might also like:  The “Ripple” Effect of Downtime

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