Staying Ahead of Outage Impact with Digital Strategy
Even with sophisticated technologies, companies are still losing a considerable amount of money due to business outages. Discover how integrating advanced digital strategies can revolutionize your defense against costly system failures and keep your business operation smooth.
- Strengthening the edge infrastructure can significantly reduce the risk of system outages by identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities, thereby ensuring robust and reliable operations.
- Understanding the potential impact of a failure, the 'blast radius', and automating routine tasks reduces the risk of human error-induced outages and enhances system reliability.
- Utilizing digital twin technology allows data centers to simulate challenging conditions and improve their incident response while building defense and depth ensures resilience even during system failure.
In the era of digital dominance, the repercussions of business outages extend beyond mere inconvenience. Outages can cause heavy financial loss, tarnish reputation, and disrupt business operations.
In the worst-case scenario, a single IT downtime incident can send shockwaves throughout an organization, leading to data loss, service disruptions, and severe damage to customer relationships.
The Uptime Institute's 2022 Outage Analysis revealed that high outage rates hadn't changed significantly, with one in five organizations experiencing a "serious" or "severe" outage in the past three years.
Over 60% of failures resulted in at least $100,000 in total losses, a substantial increase from 39% in 2019.
Moreover, a shocking 30% of major public outages in 2021 lasted more than 24 hours, causing considerable disruptions to business operations and damaging reputations
As businesses continue with their digital transformation seeking a more distributed, multi-cloud, and hybrid world, the need to be proactive in preventing IT outages is even more dire.
Given the fact that companies regularly rely on each other’s infrastructures for their products or services, a single service failure can trigger a ripple effect across interconnected systems.
In my experience of working with Fortune 500 companies, I’ve come to realize that the devil is in the details. Planning a solid digital strategy should be your priority to ensure business continuity.
Let's delve into how a robust digital strategy can help you stay ahead of the outage impact.
Strengthening the Edge Infrastructure
The core infrastructure of any digital system typically undergoes rigorous testing and is used extensively, leading to a robust and well-hardened environment.
On the other hand, edge infrastructure - which refers to the components that provide entry points into the core network - tends to be more vulnerable due to less frequent usage and testing, potentially becoming the Achilles' heel of the system.
To mitigate these risks, businesses should proactively identify potential vulnerabilities in their edge infrastructure. Regular check-ups, thorough inspections, and explicit testing are all crucial to identify potential issues and address them proactively.
Understanding Your Blast Radius
The key to preventing catastrophic failures lies in understanding the extent of the impact an error can have on your system a.k.a the ‘blast radius’.
When you consider the interconnectedness of our digital world, you’ll realize that every component or service in your network has the potential to affect others. A minor error, such as a typo in a command line, can lead to a major outage if the affected system is a critical part of your operations.
An example of this was seen in the October 2021 Facebook outage, which was caused by a single erroneous command that sparked a domino effect, shutting down the backbone connecting all of Facebook's data centers globally.
Planning for the worst-case scenario, especially for mission-critical systems, is crucial. An intentional approach to situation failover and backup, along with a deep understanding of your cost versus reliability trade-offs, can help mitigate the impact of an outage.
When we consider modern digital infrastructure's vast complexity and scale, it becomes clear that human management alone is not enough. Imagine trying to oversee a city's entire traffic system in real time - it's an overwhelming task.
This is where automation comes into play, acting as a sophisticated traffic control system for the digital world.
According to the Uptime Institute, human error is at the heart of nearly 40% of all major outages. Of these incidents, 85% stem from staff failing to follow procedures or flaws in the processes and systems themselves.
It's an understandable statistic - we're all human, after all, and mistakes are a part of our nature. However, in the context of digital operations, these mistakes can lead to significant disruptions and costs.
Think about a 2017 Amazon outage that was ultimately traced back to a human error. An employee had made a typo in a command that was intended to take a small subset of servers offline for maintenance.
However, the incorrect command resulted in a much larger set of servers being affected, leading to a major outage. This incident highlights the potential risks that can arise from vulnerabilities in edge infrastructure.
This is where automation becomes a game-changer. It can handle repetitive tasks, complex sequences, and large volumes of data with speed and accuracy far beyond human capabilities.
It's like having a super-efficient, tireless worker who never needs a break and is immune to the lapses in concentration or judgment that can lead to mistakes.
For instance, consider routine maintenance tasks, such as server updates. Carrying out these tasks manually can be time-consuming and prone to errors - a missed step or a wrong command can cause disruptions.
But with automation, these tasks can be performed accurately and efficiently, significantly reducing the risk of human error-induced outages.
Moreover, automation can monitor systems continuously, identifying potential issues before they escalate into major problems. It's like having a vigilant guard who never sleeps, constantly watching over the digital environment.
This synergy between humans and automation can significantly enhance the reliability and resilience of digital operations, reducing the risk and impact of outages.
Building Defense and Depth
Amazon’s 13 minutes of downtime in August 2021 translated to almost $5 million in lost revenue and Amazon Web Services’ three outages in December of last year cost millions more.
Such incidents are almost unavoidable but you can reduce the duration and impact of the outage.
Think of your IT infrastructure as an escalator, not an elevator…
Well, when an elevator fails, you're stuck with a useless shaft; but when an escalator malfunctions, you still have a perfectly functional staircase.
This metaphor highlights the importance of creating a system that's both resilient and capable of maintaining functionality, even during times of failure.
By reducing dependencies and preparing for the most significant correlated failures, your business can significantly shrink recovery time, ensuring you bounce back quickly from any outages.
Using Digital Twin Technology
In 2011, Netflix introduced the concept of chaos engineering as a strategy to deliberately cause system failures to evaluate the resilience of their systems amidst unexpected disruptions.
This methodology includes intentional experiments like crashing servers and clusters, interrupting packet transmission, and exhausting hard drive space. According to the chaos engineering provider, Gremlin, this approach enhances system availability and decreases the average time required to resolve incidents.
While this is beneficial for applications, it poses risks when applied physically in data centers. For instance, assessing the facility's response to a total chiller plant failure, or the reaction of redundant applications in the event of a cooling unit breakdown during peak heat conditions, can be complicated.
Such uncommon scenarios often lead to severe outages, and this is where digital twin technology proves beneficial.
Digital twin software allows data centers to simulate any setup and predict outcomes under unplanned, challenging, or even disastrous conditions—like a series of cooling or airflow unit failures, or circuit breaker malfunctions.
Therefore, operators can identify and rectify vulnerabilities, and gain an understanding of the time required to fix issues during a disaster.
This knowledge enables them to safely simulate resilience, enhance their incident response, and minimize the risk of prolonged downtime and its accompanying effects.
In the digital landscape where time is of the essence, having a robust strategy for avoiding business outages is crucial. It not only saves enormous amounts of time and effort but also prevents financial losses and maintains your reputation.
At UniAspect Digital, we provide the tools and expertise to help you transform these strategies into reality. Are you ready to make costly business disruptions a thing of the past, saving time and effort in the process?
Reach out to us now and let's together build a seamless and resilient digital future.