Unplanned downtime in business can happen due to various reasons. It can be the result of natural disasters, hardware or software failure, human error, and technical glitches. Whatever the cause, the point is, during unplanned downtime your systems are unavailable. So, your employees cannot conduct business or service clients as they should.
In other words, such unproductive periods can negatively affect your organization. How? Think about it.
Users expect company websites, e-commerce sites, blogs, and extranets to be accessible at all times. If for some reason they aren’t, a business can provide a bad customer experience and lose a potential customer in the process.
Downtime costs, too. When Amazon reported just 59 minutes of outage in 2021, the company missed out on an estimated $34m in sales. That’s over half a million dollars a minute!
You can do a quick simulation of your business’ potential losses in the event of a website failure. Simply use a website failure calculator, like the one below:
So, if you’re running an online business, you need to beware of downtime. You may not completely eliminate it, but you can implement steps to minimize its occurrence. If it does take place unexpectedly, you can also mitigate its impact on the business.
Here’s are tips you should follow for those:
1. Keep Software and Hardware Updated
To minimize downtime, you should keep your software and hardware updated. Companies often postpone their operating system or software updates to avoid periods of non-productivity. This is a mistake.
Updates often include patches for operating systems, hardware, and software. Those fixes are important so your business meets new security threats and blocks existing vulnerabilities. Fixes ensure the stability and security of your devices. So, if you want reliable performance, you should keep everything up to date.
For this, you can announce a planned downtime (emphasis on planned as opposed to unplanned). Notify everyone who may be affected in advance. Companies can carry out the updates after office hours, during holidays, or on weekends. This can help minimize the disruption of business operations and keep employee productivity unaffected.
For best results, make sure you update all devices that access your business network. This includes business and personal ones.
Investing in high-quality equipment is an effective way to avoid system errors. Reliable products from well-established producers will last longer and perform better. Spending less on low-quality equipment may turn out costly in the end. More frequent equipment failures require costly regular maintenance and lead to a shortened lifespan.
Outdated software and ancient hardware are weak points of your cybersecurity. If you’re not confident in your components’ reliability, don’t risk it and upgrade.
2. Monitor Systems
To stay on top of potential threats to your business system’s health and performance you should implement a network and device monitoring tool. A monitoring tool will perform daily performance checks, website form testing, page loading time measuring, and much more. Real-time process testing is especially important if you’re running an e-commerce site.
Incorporating web monitoring as part of your cybersecurity strategy can be a valuable tool in identifying and addressing areas of improvement for your website or web application. With the help of a reliable monitoring service, you can stay up-to-date on what’s effective and what’s not, reducing the risk of downtime. Additionally, such a service can alert you to optimize server response time, and remind you when it’s time to renew your SSL certificate. If you’re looking for a trusted web monitoring solution, Diggity Marketing offers comprehensive services to keep your website running smoothly.
The website owner or the administrator should be the first to know about downtime. A prompt reaction minimizes the risk of the customers noticing any problem. Otherwise, potential buyers can choose to spend their money on your competitor’s product.
Monitoring systems add an extra layer of protection and help in detecting problems at early stages. Once you’re aware of an issue, you can act to resolve it before they cause systems to crash.
3. Train Employees
Downtime is often caused by human error. Cybercriminals keep trying to sneak into people’s private and business networks. Clicking on a malicious link or downloading an infected PDF can result in painful downtime. Putting email filters in place and tracking technology trends is not enough. You can minimize downtime if you regularly train your employees.
Your teams must learn to recognize an emerging cyber threat. After all, cybercriminals go beyond the imaginable to get people to click malicious links.
Here’s a sample email where the recipient is urged to click on the link to upgrade. Using terms like ‘before you lose your email access’ is supposed to create a sense of fear and urgency that can prompt employees to take action to the business’ detriment.
Charitable scams are examples of phishing attacks that work to trick people into donating to them. Here’s one example from Facebook:
After clicking continue, the user can input their credit or debit card details and voluntarily release their sensitive information to the wrong person.
In order to strengthen your SaaS marketing team’s cybersecurity awareness, it’s important to provide tailored training that’s relevant to their specific roles. For instance, Crunch Marketing could develop modules that demonstrate potential risks associated with clicking on certain links in email or social media campaigns. Similarly, HR teams could receive training on identifying and mitigating security vulnerabilities when using recruitment or onboarding software.
There are many online cybersecurity training and courses available aimed at businesses. A few examples come from Udemy, Coursera, and Skillsoft. The most common topics they cover are malware, ransomware and phishing attacks. Pick a course that ends with a test your employees have to take and pass. In the end, they become certified security awareness employees.
You should also highlight to employees how important it is to follow standard IT policies and report procedures set by your organization. Everyone needs to know what to do in case they spot a suspicious email and in case of activating malware.
Educating your employees is one of the best possible cyber protections to minimize unplanned downtime for your business.
4. Invest in Backup Systems
We’ve so far talked about how you can minimize the occurrence of unplanned downtime. But, as we said, it’s impossible to completely eliminate it. After all, power outages can happen at any time due to natural disasters or localized power grid failures. When the power goes out unexpectedly, your business operations can come to a screeching halt.
In other words, it’s not enough for you to implement steps to minimize unplanned downtime. You should also be prepared in the event of one. You want to be able to mitigate its effects, should it occur.
In our example above, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can help in the immediate term. You can also use a backup generator system. In situations when your central server goes down, you can reduce damage by getting it back online quickly.
So, make sure you invest in a backup solution. When choosing your backup solution, start by understanding your current IT environment and your requirements. Different businesses have different needs. Your backup system should be able to support your data volume, address your data security concerns, and handle any legacy systems.
Check and test your backups regularly. Make sure both physical and virtual machines do their jobs and restore. Backing up data only makes sense if you can get your data back when something happens.
5. Develop a Disaster Recovery Plan
Come up with a disaster recovery plan. Planning and creating a plan will ensure you know what steps to take so your business stays productive when disaster strikes. It’s another way to mitigate the effects of business downtime.
Depending on the cause of the downtime, there will be different steps you need to take during a website recovery. When writing your plan, you should list as many possible disasters as you can think of and specify custom responses for each. For example, when there’s a blackout, follow plan A. In case of injection of malware, follow plan B. For the server outage, follow plan C, and so on.
Appointing a recovery team will help avoid chaos when immediate action is needed. Your plan should specify who is responsible for what. Prepare your team for every scenario imaginable.
Once you have your plan, test it before implementing it. Do regular audits to see if the plan still fits the threats or if it needs updating to cover the latest threats.
A disaster recovery strategy will ensure you’re prepared for unforeseen downtime events and shorten costly business operating breaks. Your teams will know what to do in the event of a downtime.
Unplanned downtime is unpredictable. It can happen to any business, no matter how big or small. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize downtime occurrence and mitigate its impact on your business.
You can avoid costly downtime if you keep your software and hardware updated. Regular system monitoring ensures you’re the first to know if there is a problem. Training your employees will help reduce the risk of human error. Implementing backup systems ensures you can recover all your data if need be. Finally, creating a disaster recovery plan can help your teams respond appropriately in the event of an unplanned downtime.
Following these tips will help keep your business and data safe, and ensure your operations run as smoothly as possible at all times.
About the Author
Nico Prins is the founder of Crunch Marketing, a SaaS marketing agency. The company works with enterprise SaaS clients, helping them scale lead generation globally across EMEA, APAC, and other regions.