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Feature - 18 November 2022 (ComputerWeekly)

As businesses increasingly rely on their digital infrastructure, downtime has a proportionally greater impact. However, while attention to reducing outages in the datacentre appears to be paying off, the costs per outage are not falling.

Andy Lawrence, executive director of research at Uptime, says a trend for “small improvements” in annual outage rates may be pointing up the high cost of the remaining outages. Some 78% of respondents to Uptime’s global datacentre survey in 2020 reported experiencing outages – yet in 2022 the proportion fell to 60%.

“The most expensive outages can be catastrophically so, with lost business and reputational risk sometimes affecting company valuations,” says Lawrence. “But even more routine and far less impactful outages are getting more expensive, as the costs of even relatively simple mitigation increase.”

Despite a push to build datacentres more cheaply, more are investing in on-site resiliency alongside distributed backups and recovery services in a bid to avoid outage-related revenue loss or financial impacts. Outages, of course, are also subject to inflation, with parts, labour, service-level infringements and the like all seeing an impact, says Lawrence.

About 40% of those polled by Uptime were from professional IT or datacentre services providers. Some 57% of a total of 830 respondents hailed from organisations boasting annual revenues under $10m – mainly consultants, design engineers and senior executives – and 28% of all those surveyed were based in Europe or the UK. Just 7% were from the $1bn-plus club.

Among those in 2022 experiencing an outage in the last three years, just 14% classified one outage as “serious/severe”, versus 18% in the 2019 survey. Many were partial rather than total failures of systems or equipment.

Lawrence points out that avoiding outages – or at least enabling a quick, smooth recovery – means making investments (including in training) in advance. But while power problems continue to be concerning, these are well understood.

“Most of the costs associated with power failures now relate to the restarting of systems and the recovery and synchronisation of data,” he says.

“The complex interconnectedness of model digital infrastructure can help alleviate big, single-site failures, but newer distributed architectures are subject to failures of their own. Software and configuration errors often reverberate across different sites and services.”

“Most of the costs associated with power failures now relate to the restarting of systems and the recovery and synchronisation of data”Andy Lawrence, Uptime

Nitha Puthran, senior vice-president for cloud and infrastructure at Persistent Systems, says higher costs can flow on from increased reliance on digitised systems and applications, including large artificial intelligence and machine learning-enabled data warehouses.

While better backup power systems and effective disaster recovery software and operational plans are handling more outages as they arise, disaster recovery strategies may not be optimal – with procedures thoroughly tested to ensure “muscle memory”....


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