How to minimise small business downtime in a crisis



No matter how big or small your business, downtime can come with high costs. Research from IDC has shown that 80% of small businesses have experienced IT-related downtime at some point, while a 2018 UK Survey by Databarracks found that 35% of organisations were unable to calculate the cost of an IT outage. Of those that could, almost a quarter said that the costs would range from £10,000 up to more than £1 million per hour.

Of course, the bigger the company, the bigger the cost. Last year, a major IT outage for British Airways meant that staff couldn’t check-in passengers, resulting in thousands of cancelled flights. An estimated 75,000 customers were affected, and the reputational damage wiped €400 million from BA’s parent company’s share value. The damage to smaller firms won’t run to millions of pounds, but they can be just as serious, resulting in hours or even days of lost business. We have already seen the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and accompanying lockdown, not to mention the effects of damaging cyberattacks. Even as the lockdown eases, businesses are looking to protect themselves from the effects of any further disruption.

Downtime can be particularly catastrophic now that IT is so core to many business operations. In a recent survey by Dell and IDG, more than half of the small businesses surveyed said that technology had a significant part to play in attaining their number one goal. Fear of downtime can also make firms re-evaluate their strategies. Approximately 54% said their IT priority was in product and service improvements, ahead of 34% on investing in new IT systems – and it’s often fear of downtime that makes companies prioritise the former.

So how can small businesses minimise the risks? The following steps should help:

  • Have business continuity and disaster recovery plans in place. Start by ensuring that you have a top-down understanding of your key business assets – the applications and data you need to run business as usual – and what you can do to protect them. Can your teams still access email, key applications and crucial business data or maintain contact with customers if something goes wrong? Work out what the essentials are that you need to do business and have a strategy in place to keep them going.
  • Get flexible. If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it’s that flexible working practices also support business continuity. Teams that can work remotely from their own devices or mobile devices are teams better-equipped to handle a disaster.
  • Keep changes simple. Big IT projects tend to carry the highest risks, particularly when you have several complex roll-outs or updates happening at once. A series of changes affecting multiple parts of the IT infrastructure can make it difficult to find and fix smaller errors, so break down these big changes into smaller, more manageable chunks. What’s more, major changes leave less margin for error. Assume that errors can and will happen, and make sure you can revert to what was working if they do. Of course, there may be times when a dramatic change is the only way forward – when you replace one application with another or shift from one IT architecture to something new. With these changes, timing is everything. Keep them for a quiet day.
  • If data is the fuel of modern business, then protecting it is vital. In the past, a daily backup was enough, but in today’s businesses with today’s applications, you need something that works in close to real-time. Active data replication, syncing data across local and online storage is one solution, as is backup or storage in the cloud. If lost data means lost business and a loss to reputation, you need a fallback option.
  • The best way to reduce the impact of downtime is to make sure it doesn’t happen, and that means prioritising reliability and resiliency over cost when investing in servers, storage and network infrastructure. Also, plan ahead for future requirements, rather than try to stretch your existing infrastructure as the years go on. What’s more, you should apply the same rules to cloud and service partners. What kind of SLAs do they offer, and what do they do to help you maintain uptime and close-to 100% availability?
  • Most of all, work with partners you can trust – partners, like Dell, who can help small businesses understand the services available to them and get the support they need. Dell’s offerings cover everything from financing to hardware deployment and maintenance, and Dell also has the expertise to help businesses link together the people, processes and technology they need if they want to compete, innovate and achieve their goals.

If you are a small business, find out more on how you can minimise the impact of downtime.

Dell Technologies Advisors are here to help and can offer advice on your tech solutions.

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