Availability has become our most valuable commodity, yet high-profile outages and brownouts are occurring at an alarming rate. We recently commissioned a global study that revealed insights into the impact of IT downtime on organizations. This study dives into:
- How outages are affecting businesses beyond the bottom line
- The most common culprits of downtime
- Recommendations for avoiding outages
Read on this article for the full study for a global analysis of IT downtime.
Digital transformation is nothing less than a revolution in how businesses interact with customers. Access to information is changing the world in important, impactful ways.
Mobile computing is pushing the boundaries of where and how we can connect to every corner of our world. Cloud computing means that virtually everything we need is just a click away. But none of this—connection, interaction, computing—is possible unless the underlying technology is working.
Availability has become our most valuable commodity. And unfortunately, high-profile availability and technology outages occur at an alarming rate. No company is immune —Target, Macy’s, British Airways, Lowe’s, Facebook, and Twitter have all struggled through embarrassing and expensive outages in recent years—and the costs go far beyond the bottom line.
To dig deeper into what causes downtime, LogicMonitor, the leading performance monitoring platform for Enterprise IT, commissioned a survey to explore the two biggest threats to availability: IT outages and brownouts.
With this survey, LogicMonitor sought to understand not only what IT outages and brownouts are, but also what causes them, whether or not they are preventable, and how organizations are combating these costly issues.
In 2019, LogicMonitor commissioned an independent research firm to survey 300 IT decision-makers at organizations with 2,500 or more employees. The organizations were distributed across a variety of industries and geographic regions. The goal of the research was to better understand how availability and downtime impact not only IT teams, but also businesses as a whole.
Respondents by Region:
- The United States and Canada: 100
- United Kingdom: 100
- Australia and New Zealand: 100
Size of Organizations by Number of Employees:
- 2,500-4,999 Employees: 30% (n = 92)
- 5,000-9,999 Employees: 34% (n = 101)
- 10,000+ Employees: 36% (n = 107)
- IT Executive Management (CIO, CISO, VP): 64% (n = 193)
- IT Management (Director): 36% (n = 107)
Respondents by Industry Vertical:
- Technology: 85
- Manufacturing: 49
- eCommerce/Retail: 41
- Financial Services: 35
- Healthcare/Insurance: 26
- Education: 12
- Transportation/Travel: 12
- Communications/Media: 11
- Energy/Utilities: 10
- Other: 9
- Business Services: 5
- Government: 5
The following pages detail the key findings of LogicMonitor’s 2019 IT Outage Impact Study, summarized here:
- 96% of global IT decision-makers surveyed had experienced at least one outage in the past 3 years.
- According to global IT decision-makers, 51% of outages are avoidable.
- Global IT decision-makers also said 53% of brownouts are avoidable.
- 53% of global IT decision-makers think it’s likely their company will experience a brownout or outage so severe that it makes national media headlines.
- The same percentage (53%) of global IT decision-makers think it’s likely their company will experience a brownout or outage so severe that someone loses their job as a result.
- Companies that have frequent outages and brownouts experience up to 16x higher costs than companies who have fewer instances of downtime.
Availability, the state when an organization’s IT infrastructure is functioning properly, is critical when it comes to operating a successful business. If the services or systems that a business provides suddenly become unavailable, that is referred to as an outage. If the services or systems remain available but slow down significantly, that is referred to as a brownout.
When asked what keeps them awake at night, the top answers for global IT decision-makers were performance and availability. 80% of respondents indicated that performance and availability were important issues. Availability was more important than security or cost to the senior IT managers surveyed.
“We see brownouts with regards to long log-in times. I.e., instead of taking 10 to 15 seconds to log in to a full virtualized desktop, it might extend out to 70 or 80 seconds. You then have poor experience or a slow and lagging desktop experience.” – DATA ANALYST AT AN IT CONSULTING COMPANY
Top 4 Issues Keeping IT Decision Makers Awake at Night
Downtime is Rampant
The data indicates that IT departments are highly concerned about availability and performance. But does this ongoing concern drive companies to excellence, or is it a sign that companies are struggling to maintain performance and availability? The evidence unfortunately points to the latter conclusion.
Can outages be avoided? According to the IT decision-makers surveyed, 51% of outages and 53% of brownouts are avoidable. These percentages remained relatively constant regardless of industry, respondent seniority, region, or company size. However, this also means that global IT decision-makers feel that 49% of outages and 47% of brownouts are unavoidable.
How frequently do brownouts and outages occur? Outages and brownouts are surprisingly prevalent. 96% of organizations surveyed experienced at least one outage in the past three years and 95% of organizations experienced at least one brownout in the past three years. Australia and New Zealand reported experiencing outages the most frequently out of all regions surveyed.
“A lot [of outages] are avoidable. If you’re not paying for storage, or maybe you’re slow-rolling your signature on a change order to increase storage on a SQL server, and you run out of a space—that’s avoidable.” – SYSTEMS INTEGRATION ENGINEER FOR A SERVICE PROVIDER
In the U.S. and Canada:
- 47% have experienced 5 or more outages over the last 3 years.
- 53% of U.S. and Canada-based IT decision-makers have experienced 4 or fewer outages over the last 3 years.
In the United Kingdom:
- 51% have experienced 5 or more outages over the last 3 years.
- 49% of UK-based IT decision-makers have experienced 4 or fewer outages over the last 3 years.
In Australia & New Zealand:
- A whopping 69% have experienced 5 or more outages over the last 3 years.
- Just 31% of Australia and New Zealand-based IT decision-makers have experienced 4 or fewer outages over the last 3 years.
The industry in which the company operates also seems to be related to the frequency of outages and brownouts. Financial and technology organizations experienced outages and brownouts most frequently during three years, followed by retail and manufacturing:
- 41% of respondents from financial organizations stated that they experienced 10 or more outages over the past 3 years (n = 35).
- 37% of respondents from technology organizations stated that they experienced 10 or more outages over the past 3 years (n = 85).
- 34% of respondents from retail organizations stated that they experienced 10 or more outages over the past 3 years (n = 41).
- 28% of respondents from manufacturing organizations stated that they experienced 10 or more outages over the past 3 years (n = 49).
Are organizations worried about the negative consequences of downtime?
IT decision-makers are pessimistic about their ability to avoid outages and brownouts. The majority of survey respondents worry about the negative repercussions of downtime, with 53% of global respondents saying it’s likely they will experience a brownout or outage so severe that it makes national media. When those downtime instances do occur, these respondents fully expect someone to lose his or her job. When comparing levels of concern across regions, industry, and respondent seniority, however, the data reveals stark differences.
Concerns by Region
In the UK, only 38% of respondents say it’s likely they will experience a major brownout or outage so severe it makes the media. And only 35% of UK respondents believe someone might lose his or her job as a result of this downtime.
That number increases among U.S. and Canada-based respondents, with 50% saying it’s likely they will experience a major brownout or outage being so severe it makes the media. 52% of U.S. and Canada-based respondents believe they will experience a major brownout or outage so severe that someone loses his or her job as a result.
In Australia and New Zealand, 63% of respondents say they are likely to experience a major brownout or outage so severe it makes the media. 63% of Australia and New Zealand respondents also worry someone might lose his or her job as a result of downtime.
Concerns by Industry
Fears about outages or brownouts showing up in the media also vary according to which industry the respondent works within. 68% of respondents working within the retail sector (n = 41) felt they would experience a brownout or outage so severe that it would make national media coverage. 68% felt that someone could lose his or her job as a result of a brownout or outage.
- 67% of respondents working within the manufacturing sector (n = 49) felt they would experience a brownout or outage so severe that it would make major media coverage. 69% felt that someone could lose his or her job as a result of a brownout or outage.
- 43% of respondents working within the financial sector (n = 35) felt they would experience a brownout or outage so severe that it would make major media coverage, although 52% felt that someone could lose his or her job as a result of a brownout or outage.
- Only 30% of respondents working within the technology sector (n = 85) felt they would experience a brownout or outage so severe that it would make major media coverage. Still, 47% felt that someone could lose his or her job as a result of a brownout or outage.
“One of our clients is a radiology company, and they need to be up 24/7. If they have more than an hour of downtime a year, probably less than that, that’s a serious issue. These guys can never go down, for legal reasons.” – SERVICE DESK SUPPORT ENGINEER FOR A SOLUTION PROVIDER
Concerns by Job Title
Seniority also impacted views around the likelihood of major media outlets picking up stories about brownouts or outages. 62% of the 193 respondents who identified as being IT Executive Management (CIO, CISO, VP) felt that it is likely that their company will experience a brownout or outage so severe that it makes the major media, while only 38% of the 107 respondents at the IT Management (Director level) felt the same.
Downtime is Expensive
It is no wonder that IT professionals are so concerned about availability. Downtime is expensive, and it also impacts the business as a whole. The following list shows the top business impacts of downtime, as described by global IT decision-makers.
Business Impacts of Downtime
- Lost revenue
- Compliance failure
- Damage to the brand
- Lowered stock price
- Mitigation costs
- Lost productivity
- Costs to mitigate and recover from a brownout
- Career negatively impacted
- Business failed
Companies that have frequent outages and brownouts experience up to 16x higher costs than companies who have fewer instances of downtime. Furthermore, companies with frequent downtime require nearly 2x the number of team members to troubleshoot problems, even when the system they are troubleshooting has monitoring software already assigned to it. Troubleshooting also takes an average of 2x as long for those companies.
Globally, on average, the costliest outage-related issues are:
- Lost revenue
- Compliance failure
And the costliest brownout-related issues:
- Lost revenue
- Lost productivity
“We support a few finance clients that deal with micro transactions against the open market, so an outage or even a loss of connectivity to the stock exchange can quickly equate to lost dollars, and they hold us accountable for that.” – DEVOPS ENGINEER FOR A TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION AND MANAGEMENT COMPANY
For companies with frequent outages and brownouts:
- 16x Higher Costs
- 2X As Long To Troubleshoot Problems
- Nearly 2X More Team Members To Troubleshoot Problems
Causes of Downtime
Why are companies around the world so ineffective at avoiding downtime? After all, the study data shows that IT decision-makers are focused on and aware of the risks of outages. IT departments also understand the overall costs of downtime to the business. And more than half of downtime can be avoided. So, what exactly is the problem?
According to survey respondents, the most common culprits of downtime vary. Figure 5 shows the top causes of downtime, according to IT decision-makers in each region. Respondents noted the lead contributors to downtime are network failure and usage spikes/surges.
What becomes clear from the data as well, however, is that human error is often a contributing factor to downtime. This is where AIOps and intelligent monitoring tools can help, and where the IT industry is shifting as companies look to future-proof their monitoring.
“We’ve seen outages based on people not following their change control because they thought, ‘It was just a simple change, so nobody needed to worry about it.’ We’ve had to recover from quite a few outages from that,” said a principal engineer at an IT services engineering firm.
According to the 300 global respondents, the top two missed opportunities when it comes to preventing downtime are:
- Passing a capacity threshold: Failing to notice when usage is trending towards a danger level. For example, this might be more traffic than the network can efficiently handle, or a primary storage share running out of space.
- Failure of hardware/software: Failing to notice that critical hardware/software performance is trending downward.
How to Avoid Outages
LogicMonitor expands what’s possible for businesses by advancing the technology behind them. Through monitoring, LogicMonitor customers gain the ability to focus less on problem-solving for events such as an outage or brownout, and more on optimization and innovation. Want to do the same? Here are five ways to get started:
- Embrace comprehensive monitoring. Find and implement a platform that comprehensively monitors infrastructures, allowing you to view your IT systems through a single pane of glass. Consider extensibility during the selection process to ensure the platform integrates with all of your technologies.
- Identify and address gaps in your systems. Build a high level of redundancy into your monitoring to prevent outages from occurring. Focus on eliminating single points of failure that might cause a system to go down.
- Act on trends in your monitoring data. Make sure you have a solution in place that gives you early visibility into trends that could signify trouble ahead. Use data forecasting to proactively identify future failures and prevent an outage before it impacts your business.
- Create an outage response plan. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it, but it’s critical to have a defined process for handling outages, from escalation and remediation to communication and root cause analysis. Set a plan on who to involve— and when—to ensure your organization can respond quickly if an outage does occur.
- Scale your monitoring. Whether you’re adopting new technologies or moving your infrastructure to the cloud, make sure that the monitoring solution your company uses can keep up. Select a scalable platform that will help take your business to the next level while still maintaining visibility into your systems.