Network outages, power cuts, cyber attacks, flooding … disruptions to your business’s IT systems can strike at any moment, and with disastrous consequences. In our increasingly connected and digital world, it has never been more important for SMEs to test their business resilience and ensure they have a recovery plan in place should the worst happen. Find out why business continuity is a real threat.
In this article we consider why business continuity is crucial, how real the threat is, the causes of IT downtime and what it may mean for your business. If you want to head straight for the good news, find out how to act now to protect your business.
Business continuity is crucial
Business continuity is about having a plan in place to deal with even the most difficult situations so that when disaster strikes (and in our experience it almost certainly will at some point) your business can continue to function with as little disruption as possible.
The nightmare scenario
Imagine you are a medical practice that can’t book appointments because your server is down. How long could this business be down before it starts to ‘hurt’ patients? Or a law firm that needs specific case files, but whose files were recently ‘locked up’ by malicious ransomware. Or a retail business that needs to process hundreds of transactions a day, but the software that runs your point of sale system has stopped working so you can’t process and record transactions. How will you stay in business? What will you do?
Extreme? Unlikely? Not so…
In fact, these types of situations are becoming increasingly common. So here at SpecTronics we thought we’d start the year with a series of three blogs about one of the most urgent issues facing businesses today: the risks of IT downtime.
In this first blog of the series, we investigate the main causes of IT downtime and the damage it can inflict on your business. In future blogs, we’ll follow up by explaining the actions you need to take to minimise the risk of downtime and, finally, how to protect your business in the long term.
The threat is real!
If you’re one of the many business owners in the UK who think they can delay worrying about an IT back-up plan just for now because ‘it won’t happen to me’ or ‘I’ll save on my bottom line by waiting until next year’ then, sadly, you need to think again. There’s plenty of evidence to demonstrate how important it is to act now. Here are just a few examples:
- Research conducted by Imperial College mathematicians during 2017-18, found that UK businesses suffered an average of two major internet outages each that prevented them from trading or accessing vital services online.
- The study also revealed that a staggering 545 hours of staff productivity are lost annually because of IT outages. Based on the UK’s average hourly wage of £13.75, this translates to an average of £7,235 per employee annually.
- According to Beaming’s latest Cyber Report, the volume of online cyber attacks on UK businesses more than doubled in 2019. On average, cybercriminals from around the world subjected UK businesses to 66 different attacks every hour during the course of last year.
- For the first time, cyber incidents rank as the top peril for businesses globally in the 2020 Allianz Risk Barometer. Compare this with 2013, when it finished 15th, and it is clear how quickly awareness of the cyber threat has grown, driven by companies’ increasing reliance on their data and IT systems.
Concerned? We think you should be!
What are the causes of IT downtime?
Perhaps not surprisingly the main culprits are
- Network failure
- Human error
- Software malfunction
- Usage spikes/surges
- Third-party provider outages
- Configuration error
- Security flaws that result in hacking and cybercrime and, finally,
- The weather.
Most businesses place power cuts and human error high on their list while the weather and natural disasters are at the bottom. So, as it turns out, businesses should be more wary of their own employees and less of natural disasters.
The 4 top ways IT downtime can damage your business
The consequences of IT downtime can be grave, even life-threatening for smaller businesses, and brands of all sizes risk losing customers forever if their services become inaccessible. There are four ways in particular that system downtime can seriously impact a company’s operations, both in the short and long term.
- Lost productivity: from email and virtual chat software to task management and customer facing support systems, losing network access can bring the workplace to a screeching halt. In most cases however, salaries, rent and other operating costs will still need to be paid regardless of IT availability – even if no meaningful work can be done during the downtime.
- Lost opportunities: for any company that does substantial business online, loss of network service means that customers won’t be able to find them and purchase their products or services. Fewer customers means lower revenue. And if your business model relies upon network availability to deliver a service, any downtime to a website will make it impossible to connect with existing customers as well.
- Brand awareness and reputation: if customers frequently encounter server outages that make it difficult to use a company’s products or services, they will not only stop consuming them, but also share their negative experiences with others. Bad word of mouth can push away potential customers and leave a company scrambling to rebuild its reputation and win back the public’s trust.
- Data loss: a true nightmare scenario for many businesses, IT downtime carries with it the potential for data loss or exposure. Even if you have backed up your business’s data with a service provider or cloud-based system (have you?), the unexpected loss of network access can have unpredictable consequences. Files may be damaged or corrupted, and failures in network security can create opportunities for cyber attacks that either destroy or compromise valuable data.
What does this mean for your business?
Current research suggests that in the UK a small business with 10-20 employees loses 2 days each year due to IT downtime. But the speed at which these businesses are able to get back online and the cost of doing so varies considerably, with unprotected companies paying up to seven times more than those who have a BCDR plan in place.
Do you know the value of your data? How much would it cost your business if you were unable to access the internet for two days or more? Is the software you rely on every day to run your company up to date and secured against the threat of cyber attacks and hackers? Can you afford the risk of not taking action?
The good news is that you can act now to protect your business
No business is completely immune to unexpected downtime but there’s a lot you can do to reduce the number of incidents, time and associated costs.
SpecTronics can set up a bespoke business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plan to protect you: we’ll help you to mitigate these serious and potentially expensive risks to your business by testing your current resilience and devising and implementing a plan to ensure:
- Your business stays online 24/7
- Your data and applications are safe, and
- Your customers can always reach you when they need to.
And we’ll provide regular technical reviews to keep your plan up to date.
How resilient is your business?
Check now with our simple Business Continuity Health Check. Once you have completed the 6 questions, one of our experienced IT Managers will be in touch to discuss your specific requirements.
In the next blog we’ll look at how to test your business’s resilience and put a recovery plan in place, and in the last of the series we’ll tell you what you need to do to protect yourself should the worst happen.