Recent headlines about IT infrastructure downtime have appeared in recent weeks, detailing the impact on several organizations in Canada. The prospect of suffering a similar fate is causing many businesses to consider what might happen if they are faced with unexpected downtime.

As part of a webinar presented by the Ontario-based technology services TUC Managed IT Solutions, Colin Elliot, who is the director of IT services for the marketing firm EyeVero Marketing Communications Group of Ottawa, noted the wide-ranging impact of the sudden crash of a key piece of IT infrastructure for a business. One big hit is lost productivity, as more and more workers are simply unable to do their jobs without IT systems in place. As a result, IT managers are under pressure to stop downtime before a snowball effect arises and productivity grinds to a halt.

“Most SMEs do not have a great team in their IT department. The CIO becomes a general contractor to manage suppliers who must restore the computer systems,” said Elliot. “Where are servers controlled? Where is the warranty information for network cards? Who made the wired network? What electrician can restore the voltage? Some items may go beyond the primary role of the IT department, who are still assigned responsibility. ”

Declining revenues, rising expenses

Downtime can be directly linked to a loss in revenue for a business as well as increased costs. Elliot cites an example of a shipping business in the manufacturing sector and what it costs it may have to swallow when products must be delivered on deadline.

“If we reach the end of the production line and it is impossible to deliver, that’s a problem,” Elliot says. “When IT resources work with an assurance of overnight delivery, it can become very expensive very quickly.”

IT downtime can impact sales projects that are awaiting completion, with staff unable to access data or contact information, Elliot says. Then there’s the impact of intra-business communications.

“There may be a cascade effect when in-house service is inactive. People are not aware of the degree of interdependence of technology they use, ” he says.

Compliance and reputation risk

When infrastructure fails, there may be an indirect but important consequence for companies that must adhere to compliance standards.

Most people react to downtime by moving business data to a mobile device, Elliot says. Or they use a USB key or a public cloud service to access their data and continue to work remotely. This could put an organization at risk.<

"Organizations face the prospect of information flowing off the network," Elliot says. "This is scary stuff. Human resources workers may send employee information by a Web mail service. Once that's done, you can no longer track the information and no one knows where it is."

Finally, Elliot said IT downtime can hurt an organization's reputation in an age where rumours fly fast across social media channels.

"Customers will have the impression that a company is no longer able to provide products or services and go elsewhere," Elliot said. "The competition will take advantage and attempt to win over clients."

Thanks to the "iPhone effect" people now have an expectation of IT services to be always available, friendly, functional, and immediate, Elliot says. If that isn't possible, they will look elsewhere.

For those not convinced of the costly nature of IT downtime, TUC Managed IT Solutions provides a cost calculator on its Web site that quantifies the impact of downtime on sales and productivity.

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