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Micro-Outages Uncovered: Exploring the Real Cost of Downtime

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Unplanned downtime is an eventuality every business tries to avoid but will face. In today’s digitally interconnected world, outages can be particularly damaging, especially if the business is unprepared. Not only can outages cause employee frustration and anger customers, leading to numerous intangible costs like lower satisfaction hurting a company’s reputation, but the loss of employee productivity caused by unplanned downtime can significantly affect the bottom line. With stakes this high, it’s no surprise how everyone—from the CTO to service desk technicians—is highly invested in tackling the common causes of downtime.

Unfortunately, I doubt whether they are looking at the right places or are considering solutions built to fully address the real cost of downtime by minimizing downtime risks. Since everyone is focusing on the big numbers of one-time downtime events, I think they could be missing the real culprit of downtime costs – the many minor outages happening right under their noses.

How micro-downtimes drain your bottom line

There’s no shortage of news about the staggering costs of downtime – major outages from Amazon, Facebook, and Apple grab headlines all the time. While those numbers matter, they often don’t paint the full picture of the true cost of downtime. To calculate these costs, one must look deeper at smaller outages and brownouts largely going unnoticed and unreported across the organization.

You might have experienced these micro-downtimes or micro-outages before, like a business portal taking longer than usual to load, a file not downloading from the company cloud, or, more drastically, a crash wiping out hours of work and causing significant data loss. While these pocket outages of IT downtime can create outages and result in lost productivity, they often go unreported to IT due to the hassle involved. However, the volume and frequency they occur can compound and potentially cost companies millions in lost revenue every year.

And I’m not exaggerating. Based on our findings, the average cost of downtime per minute for small businesses is $427 and $9,000 for larger enterprises. If you think of this cost per minute from an hourly perspective, a single hour or downtime costs small businesses roughly $25,620 and over half a million ($540,000) for enterprises. Or say an employee experiences over 5 minutes of downtime daily, multiply this across the entire company with potentially thousands of employees and the total revenue loss is enough to make anyone’s knees go weak.

The bottom line: While the costs of unplanned downtime—missed sales, damaged reputation, and lower customer satisfaction—can’t be ignored, don’t disregard the outage costs from micro-downtimes caused by unreported inefficiencies or IT outages across business operations. To brush them off is to allow millions in profitability and potential productivity to go down the drain.

3 steps to address micro-downtimes and minimize outage costs

Businesses looking to thrive must address the risks of IT downtime, both macro and micro. For both, the usual best practices – backup and recovery, updates, and continuous testing – remain. However, to effectively tackle the opaque and voluminous problem that is micro-downtime, IT teams must also undertake a series of additional measures:

  1. Run surveys and get feedback
    Survey the entire organization to determine how frequent or extensive these micro-downtimes can be. Asking simple questions like, “How often do you experience downtime during your day? Could the downtime have been avoided with IT support?” provides the data needed to properly quantify the problem along with insights into patterns of outages IT may not be aware of.

    This is one example of how collecting and prioritizing opinions and feedback from the organization can be crucial, especially for IT support teams. When employees see their opinions and feedback are not prioritized, they can feel undervalued and unengaged, resulting in higher turnover and subsequent costs to the overall company culture.

    By implementing regular surveys and prioritizing the opinions and feedback of the organization, employees can more easily express their thoughts, concerns, and suggestions, allowing them to feel heard, valued, and contribute to a more inclusive and collaborative culture.
  2. Keep records and create a baseline
    As the truism goes, what gets measured gets done. Start building baseline KPIs for micro-downtimes using the data collected from the survey respondents or your observability tool (more on this below). Then, set clear targets set just above clearly achievable: if 25% of employees choose not to report downtime to IT, aim to lower this percentage within three to six months.

    Survey data can also help establish meaningful service-level agreements (SLAs) to work towards improving uptime. For instance, if over 40% of the workforce experienced an outage or two, commit to reducing it to 15% by a deadline.

    Tying everything together into a plan to reduce the frequency and associated recovery costs from downtime can give IT teams the leverage needed to gain support from upper management, and the budget they need to invest in better tools, services, or solutions.
  3. Consolidate tools and vendors where possible
    Consolidating the myriad of tools and vendor solutions can counteract the costs of downtime in more ways than one. First, it’s often more cost-efficient and collaborative for the different IT domains to operate on a shared solution instead of siloed tools.

    Secondly, users may be more inclined to report outages and downtimes if they don’t need to log into multiple services or wrangle different user interfaces to complete the job. Struggling to navigate between systems makes it difficult to track the progress of requests, creating a disconnect leading to frustration and delays in issue resolution.

    Trying to escalate between multiple systems used to manage service delivery can also create significant challenges for teams responsible for service delivery. Escalating requests between systems can become a time-consuming and error-prone, hindering the ability to provide timely and satisfactory resolutions. The lack of integration and coherence between systems can ultimately disrupt workflow, decrease productivity, and negatively affect the overall customer experience.

How unified observability can empower IT teams to combat downtime

These are just some of the many strategies businesses can employ to rein in micro-downtime costs before they inflate and cause significant reputation damage. By creating a company culture of feedback to proactively get ahead of potential issues and proactively detecting, analyzing, and resolving these smaller pockets of downtime, IT teams are better equipped, in a better mental state, and more prepared for when major outages—and costlier downtimes—inevitably occur.

In the battle against high downtime costs and striving to achieve 100% availability, solutions like unified observability can give teams an edge by centralizing monitoring and analytics from across environments into a single pane of glass. Using this source of truth, teams can more easily identify and resolve issues causing server downtime, network downtime, and other outages involving critical infrastructure to keep business services running optimally. Additionally, using an observability solution built to integrate with a comprehensive ITSM solution seamlessly can help organizations more efficiently address and minimize the loss of employee productivity in real-time with automatic incident creation based on alerts.

You can learn more about how SolarWinds® Service Desk is built to seamlessly integrate with SolarWinds Hybrid Cloud Observability and SolarWinds Observability to improve ticket resolution speed by automating the creation of incidents and enhance your service management offering by providing a closed-loop system within your centralized observability solution.