An Ounce of Prevention – Protection Against Communication Outages

We have all heard the adage that “An Ounce of Prevention is worth a pound of cure”. While we instinctively know this, do you know how it applies to your business infrastructure? Today, businesses have become inexorably dependent on business-critical applications that are comprised of software, hardware, and services. These components are interdependent, creating delicate links in a chain that has been termed the “Application Delivery Chain”. What this means is that many of your applications are dependent on each other and most assuredly the servers and networks that support them. Keeping these mission-critical applications at peak performance is the primary directive for IT Professionals. The demand for new applications, coupled with the burgeoning use of edge computing, and the need to keep the current systems operational may lead to overlooking the importance of day to day preventative steps and/or underlying infrastructure requirements.

Early in my career, while a support specialist to both customers and their end-users we found that 85% of all tickets were the result of what we refer to as Layer 1 issues: Cable/Power/Connectivity? With nostalgia, I could tell stories that would make you smile. You know, the ones where you ask them what position the “ON” Slash “OFF button is in, or what, if any lights are illuminated on the device? And while we have come a long way since those days, end user experience and user interface is still king.

Below is a list of the top causes of communications outages:

1. Faults, errors or discards in network devices
2. Device configuration changes
3. Operational human errors and mismanagement of devices – (22%)
4. Link failure caused due to fiber cable cuts or network congestion
5. Power outages
6. Server hardware failure (55%)
7. Security attacks such as denial of service (DoS)
8. Failed software and firmware upgrade or patches (18%)
9. Incompatibility between firmware and hardware device
10. Unprecedented natural disasters and ad hoc mishaps on the network such as a minor accidents, or even as unrelated as a rodent chewing through a network line, etc

One of the major vendors found while researching their customer support history that they had five major causes for communications outages.

1. Power outage
2. Lack of routine maintenance
3. Hardware failure 55%
4. Software bug/Corruption
5. Network issue/outages

What’s more important is the percentage of time the outage could have been prevented had standard best practices been followed:

1. Power outage (81%)
2. Lack of routine maintenance (78%)
3. Hardware failure (52%)
4. Software bug / Corruption (34%)
5. Network issue/Outage (27%)

This downtime is costly and can be defined in both hard and soft dollars. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s define hard dollars as the expenses incurred directly to bring the systems back online: Hardware, labor, tech support, etc.) and soft dollars as the indirect costs such as loss of employee productivity, loss of business, dissatisfied customers, customer perceptions, customer loss of confidence, etc.. With these definitions in mind, considered the impact to your business in soft dollars in the event of an outage? If you are an online or transactional business, your competitor is just one click away. We must face the reality that we live in the age of the consumer. No longer do customers need to wait for you, they can locate an alternative to you in a New York minute (that’s fast). We live in a world that expects real-time communications. And frankly, your customers are no longer willing to wait.

So, just as we understand that we should drink more water, eat healthy and exercise more to prevent health issues, we also need to apply this to our communications infrastructure. When was the last time you did an assessment on your systems? No one wants to be caught saying to management, that the RCA (root cause analysis) shows that the reason for a major outage was due to a failure on your team to follow well known industry standard best practices. Most manufacturers offer a maintenance policy on hardware and software and their vendors offer complimentary packages that provide the expertise to perform these actions on your behalf.

We have seen an alarming trend in the industry to cut costs by dropping maintenance services and to “self-insure”. While this may offer short term operational cost savings, when the outages occur the time to recover results in an overall higher cost. A prime example is that of backups. We all know we should perform backups, but did you know that the time to recover from an outage with a valid backup is 1/15th the time of the restore with a valid backup. The degree of recovery is also proportional. Just as with health issues, sometimes full recovery is never achieved. The overall cost to the business can be catastrophic. In a survey of companies that experienced outages, the average loss for a small business was $55,000, mid-sized company averaged more than $91,000 and large companies over $1,000,000. The good news is that there are lower cost maintenance offerings to keep costs down and offset the costs and still provide full coverage.

As our dependence on applications continues to increase, the servers and networks over which they ride become increasingly relevant. In addition, the trend to virtualization, both server and network virtualization, has brought about an increasingly distributed network. The current imperative is to maintain the end user experience. IT professionals need the ability to monitor the overall network as it pertains to the user experience from an individual application perspective. Many factors converge influence the user experience: application code, edge computing devices with their resources (CPU, Memory, storage and network access method), the internal and external networks with their delicate protocol layers used carry the interactions and the servers with their respective resources.

The good news is that with the advances made by SPB and SDN, the network and associated infrastructure, which is the most pervasive part of the delivery chain, can now exist to serve and support applications. The new breed of tools emerging provide the ability an end-to-end view of the entire application delivery chain with the ability to drill down to any infrastructure element or method deep within the application. These tools give the ability to easily determine the source of the delay (application, server, client, network, etc.)

So, where to start? Begin by doing a risk assessment. You’ll want to assess your network, power, systems, security, services, etc. and put together a list of actions to take based on the level of risk. If you don’t have the time or skill set, hire someone to do this, they will provide you reports of system status, risk levels and offer recommendations for remediation. Some of the fixes will be simple (do backups), others may require a minimal spend (replace aging batteries, clean the telecom room), to be sure, some will involve maintenance windows to update software to current release and a few may actually save you money (such as a telecom assessment that reduces overall spend and identifies unused services that you are still paying for). Many consulting groups have a specific vertical that they specialize in (Medical, Retail, Warehousing) and will understand your business and provide excellent input on new technologies that will help you achieve your business goals and maybe even define some new ones. Depending on the size and complexity of your network, you may be surprised how the latest advancements in systems will allow you to centralize control and monitoring of your overall network, and provide risk free methods to quickly introduce new applications and services that management determines are needed to grow the business.
On my journey to losing over 50 pounds of body fat in just 8 weeks time, there were 9 weight loss lessons I learned… the hard way! Fortunately for you, you can learn from my mistakes and hopefully don’t run into any brick walls during your journey! In today’s article I’m going to share with you 9 things I learned that helped me FINALLY get in shape, and I’m sure it will help you too…

Lesson #1. Keep your motivation level high at all times… and here’s how:

There are some things I recommend you do to get your motivation level high to do this whole diet and exercise thing. What I recommend for you to do is to:

Concentrate more on fat loss than weight loss. Focusing more on reducing body fat is not only the smarter and healthier approach to getting in shape, it’s also the least stressful. Weight fluctuates a lot, and if you are not seeing the results you want on the scale, then this is a surefire way to cause you to lose motivation. If you focus more on decreasing body fat and gauging your success based off of how you are looking, how loose your clothes are fitting, etc., then you’ll find it WAY more motivating.
Figure out the primary reason why you want to do this, and keep reminding yourself about it every day. You could put a note up on the fridge, you can make a screen saver on your computer, etc. that mentions or shows WHY you want to improve your body.
Understand that the greatest source of motivation is by getting results… so ensure you follow the next lessons below… because they have been proven time and time again to produce results!
Lesson #2. Choose a practical diet that is centered around increasing your metabolism with food.

The best type of diet by far to go on is a diet that is designed to increase your metabolic rate using food. When I went on a diet such as this, I was taken back with how simple it was to do. All you have to do is follow the menu plan that is designed for you with this type of diet plan, and in a couple of weeks you could literally lose up to 10 pounds of fat. The way this type of dieting work is by increasing your bodies fat burning hormones by shifting the calories of the foods you eat in specific patterns.


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