Helping clients manage their technology for over 30 years.

Look What’s Really Causing IT Disasters

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According to one expert, U.S. enterprises lose $1.2 trillion each year from IT failures. Although this figure gets debated, everyone agrees it’s a whole lot of money.

These losses — and the downtime that triggers them — tend to be caused by the mundane rather than the spectacular, as recent Forrester/Disaster Recovery Journal research shows:

Top Causes of Downtime in 2013
Downtime in 2013 – Disaster Recover & Data Loss Prevention

What I notice about the leading five causes of downtime — power failure, hardware failure, network failure, software failure, and human error — is that they’re a product of our increasingly complex IT environments.

New technologies, new risks

Given the technologies needed to support the ways we currently do business, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Consider, for instance, what AT&T uncovered in its latest small business technology poll:

  • 98% of small businesses use wireless technologies, and two-thirds say their survival would be threatened without them
  • 85% use smartphones, more than double the usage of five years ago
  • 69% use tablets, a figure that jumps to 90% in firms with 51 to 99 employees
  • 67% of small businesses use their website to market to customers
  • 41% use email to market to customers (up almost 25% over last year)
  • 41% of small businesses indicate all their employees use wireless technologies and devices to work away from the office — and half of these firms say they would be challenged to survive without wireless
  • 31% use mobile apps to save time, boost productivity and lower costs

These new capabilities come at a price. Where once our data centers operated in defendable isolation, now we rely on just-in-time service chains that often stretch across continents and oceans — and this new IT complexity not only impacts the kinds of risks businesses face, it also changes how risk should be assessed and planned for. Mundane downtime events may be comparatively small-scale, but the complex interconnectivity of today’s technologies means these disruptive events tend to occur more frequently.

And these disruptive events cascade. For example, droughts lead to wildfires and drought relief can spawn flooding and mudslides affecting our data centers. In fact, the Forrester/Disaster Recovery Journal 2013 survey estimates that one in three companies have declared a disaster in the past five years; in 2010, the ratio was one in five.

Surviving complexity

Meanwhile, we all need — and demand — shorter recovery times. Yet, as the Forrester/Disaster Recovery Journal research reveals, actual recovery times are getting longer: in 2013, the median actual recovery time was eight hours, up from three hours in 2010.

In my next post, I’ll take a look at some of the ways today’s technologies can help you keep your data safe and your business functioning in the face of downtime and disaster. And the good news is that it’s never been more affordable.

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