IT industry experts point out the potential upside of downtime

A recent survey commissioned by Symantec Corp. suggests that IT managers spend almost a quarter of their time on application performance issues, but experts in the field say that downtime may be far down their list of concerns.

The Symantec survey was carried out by Applied Marketing Research Inc. in July and asked questions of 200 consumers, 200 business users of enterprise applications and 200 IT personnel in North America. Fifty of the respondents from each group were Canadian.

One of the key findings of the survey is that IT staff spend 24 per cent of time addressing application slowdowns.

“We know it’s a pain and a challenge for our customers,” said Anne O’Neill, senior product manager for applications performance management products at Symantec.

“In the ideal world, you can address issues before they affect your end users,” she added.

IT managers “need to be doing more activity that helps to contribute towards revenue, that helps to contribute towards customer satisfaction (and) retention. Performance management is a key part of that.”

George Goodall, senior research analyst at London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group, agreed that it’s possible that IT managers spend 24 per cent of their time addressing uptime issues, particularly if application optimization, network management, database management are all taken into account. However, time spent on management of those issues is not necessarily time wasted.

“The assumption (in the study) . . . is that an individual’s time could be spent better elsewhere,” he said. But that time also helps an IT manager assess how the application is being used (e.g. what parts of the application are being utilized most often) and more broader IT management goals, like the security impact of a given application.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a concern so much as it is a part of doing business,” he said.

Mark Bonner, IT manager at Goodman and Carr LLP in Toronto, says that the reported 24 per cent may be too high. In Bonner’s experience at the law firm, it’s more like 15 per cent. Applications are more reliable now than they have been in the past, he said, and uptime issues tend to arise from employee demands than fault with the technology itself.

“I think there is certainly more of a demand for uptime. When I walked in here in 1998, only one in three offices had someone staring at a screen. Now it’s at least two-thirds,” he said.

Bonner doesn’t rule out using application performance management software – like Symantec’s i3 – but currently relies on planned downtime cycles. The firm recently reached an agreement to mirror its data at a Fusepoint data centre, effectively creating two IT shops: one on-site at the law firm, and a second at Fusepoint’s facility in Mississauga, Ont. The overlap allows Bonner to plan periods of downtime while still allowing users access to e-mail and data.

Bonner said his biggest IT concerns, and the ones that take up the majority of his time, are application training for users and security issues like patch management.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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