Success in the internet economy requires that customers, suppliers and partners have the access they need to your products, services, and business network - at any time of day or night. Should your network go down for any reason, and for any length of time, this can have serious financial consequences.
Unscheduled downtime due to network outages, service or infrastructure failures, severe weather conditions or natural disasters can be bad enough. But network downtime which occurs for legitimate business reasons, such as routine maintenance, may take a toll on your balance sheet as well. So upgrading your network infrastructure, office relocations, switching vendors
or service providers and other conditions requiring changes to your business
network must also be taken into account.
In this article, we'll be looking at some of the major contributors to network
and service downtime, the potential consequences and the measures that
you can take to minimise their effects.
The Downside of Downtime
We've already hinted at the financial repercussions if your business network remains unavailable, for any length of time. Regularly scheduled maintenance operations, hardware upgrades and optimising your systems architecture can help guard against unplanned downtime events.
But the very act of making changes to your business network may require you to take applications or systems offline – this introduces a downtime element of their own. If these periods aren't carefully managed, there can be a serious impact both on your internal operations and on the services that you make available to people outside your organisation.
Internal processes and lines of communication may be disrupted. Access points and online resources may lock out the users that you rely on to keep your business afloat. Product and service delivery may be interrupted or cut off entirely.
The end result could be frustrated workers, dissatisfied customers, supply chain partners wishing they hadn't allied themselves to your company – and a whole lot of people looking to work or do business elsewhere. To guard against this, you'll need to know the principal causes of downtime during your periods of network change and the measures you can take to reduce or eliminate their impact.
Poor Service or Infrastructure Delivery
The move toward faster, more reliable internet connectivity and data-handling has inspired many enterprises to consider migrating all, or part of their business network to the cloud. Remotely hosted "as a Service" options cover the full range from network infrastructure, through to business processes, user desktops and individual applications.
It's a buyer's market, so you'll get what you pay for – though this may not be what you expected. Rather than increased productivity and greater resources, the transition from your existing network to a more distributed and virtual solution could go completely the other way if you choose the wrong vendor or service provider.
This emphasises the need for market intelligence and expert advice when making alterations to your business network. These are resources that an organisation like LG Networks, with its experience in network installation and the latest fibre optics technologies, can readily provide.
Unplanned or Incompatible Changes
In a 2016 survey of 315 network professionals at medium and large-scale enterprises, it was observed that changes to a business network which hadn't been properly evaluated beforehand were responsible for the regular occurrence of downtime events. Outages or performance issues were experienced several times a year by 44% of those surveyed, while at the worst end of the spectrum, 5% experienced downtime on a daily basis due to network changes, with 7% having to deal with them several times a week.
Going into an upgrade or extended maintenance cycle without a plan – or without doing the product and technology research required to work out which components are compatible with what – can lead to outcomes just like this.
Whether in an advisory capacity, or as the procurer of the necessary infrastructure components and installation expertise, consulting specialists in the field like LG Networks is a wise move. We can help guard against the nasty shocks which can result from poorly planned changes to your business network.
Depending on Manual Checks and Processes
During installations and after a network upgrade, IT staff and contractors may have to rely upon manual processes to verify that the changes made to your business network are having the desired effect. This takes time which adds to the period that your services are offline or reduced in capacity.
One solution is to automate these checks as much as possible. However, you'll need to be careful about the tools and software that you choose.
Clunky Network Monitoring Tools
As with verification, the tools you choose to monitor the changes that occur in your business network on a daily basis, can have an impact on how much downtime you'll suffer.
Monitoring tools with predictive capabilities are the best option, as these can build up a picture of your business network as it alters in real time and flag potential performance issues. But before installing a monitoring system, you should consult with a network specialist like LG Networks to determine the best fit for your organisation.
Troubleshooting and Problem Resolution
During normal periods of operation and at those times when alterations are being made to your business network, problems may occur which require some form of intervention to keep things running smoothly. Figure the time this will take, into your overall timetable.
Poor Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Measures
LG Networks take pains to advise clients on the wisdom of having a strong policy for preserving network availability or business continuity and for taking measures to ensure Disaster Recovery (DR). Without them, a severe weather event, cyber-attack or technical issue causing a network outage could quite literally bring your organisation to a standstill.
Redundant (in the sense of "extra") hardware and software, data backups, cloud-based options for keeping applications available and the call-forwarding and messaging capabilities of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) are just some of the measures you can deploy to keep your business network operational under even the most extreme conditions.
Technological issues aside, the human operators making alterations to your business network may introduce downtime through the simple act of making a mistake. Failure to follow standard procedure, a misread digit on a monitoring instrument or the accumulated effects of a long hard day: all have the potential to slow down or halt your business processes. They can cost your enterprise time, money, the trust of loyal customers and valuable opportunities.
The Need for Effective Network Management
An overall strategy for effectively managing your business network is a vital element in managing any changes that you make to it. This would typically involve splitting your network into logical sections (network segmentation) which may be looked at individually, in terms of infrastructure, monitoring, and security management.
You should also have a clear network management policy, which sets out performance standards for availability, uptime, security and regulatory compliance needs.
Using Change Management Techniques
Finally, you should also consider putting a formal change management policy in place. This is a formalised structure and time-frame setting out the procedures for all stages of any alteration to your business network.
If you'd like to know more about reducing downtime, or making changes to your business network, contact the experts at LG Networks.