In an increasingly connected world, businesses and consumers are likewise increasingly reliant on online services. Transactions are expected to happen in an instant. Any downtime can result in dissatisfaction among customers. For enterprises with a focus on B2B, downtimes can be costly. Service level agreements (SLAs) will not be met, and customers might look elsewhere. For consumer-facing businesses, downtimes can have significant bad effects on the user experience, and can significantly impact a brand.
In January 2014, several of Google’s services, including Gmail, Calendar, and Docs, experienced an outage that lasted less than an hour. The outage only affected about 10% of all of Google’s users but enraged millions of customers who were expecting those services to work. Google later apologized, blaming the downtime on an internal software bug. Another downtime occurred just this month, which Google attributed to security certificates.
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Microsoft’s Exchange email service went down for many business customers for more than six hours in June 2014. While Google’s service outage happened on a Friday afternoon, Microsoft’s outage occurred on a Tuesday morning and was down for much of the business day that day.
Industry surveys estimate that such outages cost an average of $5,600 per minute, reaching in excess of $300,000 per hour. Thus, ensuring 99.999% uptime is a must, especially for enterprises that run mission-critical applications. These costs don’t even factor in the damage to the brand’s overall reputation, which can further affect the bottom line.
High Availability refers to a system that’s been designed to minimize the likelihood of service outages. At any point where life, health, and well-being are at stake – including economics – systems are expected to have high availability.
Availability is expressed as a percentage of yearly uptime. Because no service can ever guarantee 100% uptime, the highest level of uptime available is 99.999%, which most businesses actually promise in their service-level agreements (SLAs). Thus, HA is an important aspect of B2B transactions, in that clients who are businesses themselves expect a service to be delivered at reasonable uptime levels.
To start planning for high availability, first identify the services you must have constantly available for business to run as usual. For each level of service, determine how far your company can go to ensure availability. Consider your budget; your staff’s expertise, and how well your customers would tolerate an outage.
Identify the systems that are involved in each service, and create a list of possible points of failure for each of them. Have each of these points checked to establish a failure tolerance baseline, and determine the ongoing monitoring frequency.
Develop a disaster recovery plan. Focus on two key elements – Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO). RTO refers to the amount of time your business can function without the systems being available, and the RPO refers to how old your data will be when the system is recovered. This allows you to determine which systems have the greatest priority, and what you can to do to protect them from disaster. If and when disaster does strike, you’ll have an action plan to get everything restored in the order it best serves your business.
Any business can leverage technology providers that work together to help reduce the likelihood of failures and service outages, either from bugs, malicious attacks, or unforeseen disasters.
Distributed Architecture: Software-as-a-Service delivery models are scalable, meaning you can serve as much or as little from the cloud based on your traffic volumes at any given moment. Running on a distributed or virtualized architecture on the cloud can help in ensuring a seamless experience for the customer, especially since your operations are not limited to a single on-premises server.
Redundancies: Redundancies refer to duplicate standby devices designed to act as a failover when the main server fails or overloads. These are placed within the system to ensure there’s always an alternative delivery mechanism should a server or other system component fail.
Load Balancing allocates traffic across multiple servers to ensure balanced utilization and to prevent any single one from becoming overloaded, being bogged down or crashing. In turn, each of the servers performs more efficiently. This is critically important for networks where it can be difficult to impossible to determine how much traffic will be served at any given point.
Downtime can cost businesses thousands of dollars a minute, and thus being prepared and minimizing downtime can save money in the long run. Investing in the necessary technology to ensure high availability will cost money, but the investment is far less than what a single fairly large-scale downtime incident would cost your company. Spending money to protect your company from major loss will pay off in the long run.
When your business is up and running 99.999% of the time, it is much more likely to run smoothly, keeping customers happy. Any amount of downtime measurable enough for a customer to notice or be negatively impacted will send your customer service channels skyrocketing with issues. The longer or more severely the customer is affected, the more you will have to do to keep them as a customer. Though uptime may require some significant investment, it pays for itself in customer satisfaction.
It’s clear to understand what successful high availability looks like no application downtime and no application data loss. The diffusion of high availability products has lowered the price to be accessible to both enterprises and SMBs. If considered the reduced infrastructure costs – broadband, server virtualization, multiple service providers – and an increase of usability, high availability has become affordable for organizations of all sizes.
To successfully implement high availability, understand your business needs and priorities, so to avoid the disaster of downtimes or worst, recovery of lost data. High availability is not a luxury but a necessity in every business, so to ensure the best experience to your customers and keep your brand at highest levels.
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