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Understand the true costs of network downtime

iTech Toronto 2017: What can you see when the lights go out?

Data has become one of the most valuable — if not the most valuable — commodity known to man. So what happens when your IT systems are compromised? What will you do when your network goes down? And how much is it costing you every minute and hour?

This week at iTech Toronto 2017, a technology conference focusing all things IT, Bell MTS Data Centres’ Bill Yaeger explained the true costs of network downtime. In charge of business development with Bell MTS Data Centres, Yaeger delivered a session entitled, What can you see when the lights go out? – demonstrating every company’s imperative to focus on security.

The iTech Toronto crowd gathered at the International Centre in Mississauga to discuss the latest in IT infrastructure, cloud, security, data centres, virtualization and mobility. But it was “security” that became a major focus – from safe data storage to protection from external threats such as ransomware.

“It’s because everybody believes the same thing … that data is money, it’s valuable and it needs to be protected,” said Yaeger.

Does data have value?

Data, in and of itself, isn’t valuable. It’s the accessibility to data that makes it valuable, according to Yaeger. From small startups to massive enterprises on the cutting edge of technology, data security translates to business value.

Bill Yaeger

Consider Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, with a mission to “make human life multi-planetary,” with plans for a private moon mission next year. SpaceX, at last count, was valued at US$12 billion.

Then there’s Snapchat, a mobile app that seemingly exists to entertain teenagers. “Most people don’t realize they sell advertising — and they have a huge network of users that can be sold to, and users deliver themselves to the [app],” said Yaeger. The company’s value is created by its data, and by its understanding of its customers; the company is valued at US$20 billion — much more than SpaceX. That price tag helps demonstrate the value of the company’s data.

Real-time analysis of data can also create competitive advantage. Consider Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains, which produce a terabyte of data every single day. That’s a lot of information — but that data is being used to improve services. These high-speed trains, operating since 1964, transport 364 million passengers per year, yet have never had a fatality. And the average delay, even in the foulest weather, averages less than a minute.

“They’re leveraging their data to give them a huge competitive advantage,” said Yaeger.

The true cost of downtime: $160K per hour

But is there actual value in the data, or is the value derived from your ability to access it? That value only exists when the data is intact and accessible without interruption, Yaeger explained.

“I’m entirely dependent on technology,” he said. “The risk is in not being able to access the data, even if it’s intact.”

The cost of downtime (averaged across all sizes of business) is US$160,000 an hour, according to the Aberdeen Group. But there are longer-term costs when customers lose trust in the brand or take their business elsewhere. These effects can be far-reaching: Bank of America’s six-day outage affected 29 million online customers; BlackBerry’s 24-hour worldwide outage affected millions; and Netflix — down for four to eight hours — affected 20 million users.

“There are myriad dangers facing your data every day, and staying online is absolutely fundamental nowadays,” said Yaeger. “What can you do to protect yourself and your operations? It takes careful strategic planning and testing.”

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Taking the right precautions to protect your business

Businesses are backing up their data and paying attention to cyber threats. But backing up data isn’t going to cut it if that data needs to be accessible.

“What do you have in place to ensure you have a quick return to business? It needs to work for real when the lights go off,” Yaeger said.

Often, businesses aren’t prepared for physical threats with 24×7 active security, extreme access control, fire suppression and redundant power. Servers could be chugging away for years, and then the power goes out and they won’t turn back on again. That means you should test equipment often and routinely.

“Active security is what a lot of people are missing out on right now,” said Yaeger. “They throw up cameras, but what you need is a human being who knows what normal looks like.”

What’s the answer?

There are certain controls that can be put in place, specifically for instances of unexpected downtime.

‘Extreme access control’ means employees should only be able to access the imperative equipment and software to do their job. Fire suppression should be suitable for IT equipment, particularly in a multitenant facility with common systems. (Typically, this is a problem). And redundant power supplies require UPSs and generators, which are expensive and space-consuming.

“If you don’t own the building, the landlord is not going to let you put in a generator that takes up five parking spaces,” said Yaeger.

“It’s easier to get that level of security by moving your environment somewhere else, whether you build your own or use a co-location facility,” he said. “If you build your own, you need to fully understand what your IT landscape will look like in five to 10 years.”

Another option is the public cloud, but you may have to adjust your solution to suit the platform you’re on — and it doesn’t mean your data is backed up (that means you’ll need to be in two clouds for redundancy). There’s also the option of a private cloud or a hybrid approach.

“It’s different for everyone — there’s no pre-packaged perfect solution, there’s no cookie-cutter approach to this,” said Yaeger. The key is to consider not only storing and backing up your data, but making sure you can access your most valuable asset when the lights go out.

Missed iTech Toronto? You can still register for the next iTech conference stops, in Montreal on June 12 and in Ottawa on June 13. Bell MTS Data Centres expert, Bill Yaeger, will be speaking about network downtime, the challenges companies face and the associated costs to your business.

Up Next: How ‘integration’ can protect your business from cyberattacks. IT security expert, Dr. Mike Lloyd, shares important strategy for combating cyber threats—”Are the bad guys winning the battle in cybersecurity?

Are the bad guys winning the battle in cybersecurity?

Vawn Himmelsbach

Vawn Himmelsbach is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. She has covered technology and travel for 15 years, for media outlets such as, The Globe & Mail, Metro News, ITBusiness, PCworld Canada and Computerworld Canada. She also spent three years living abroad and working as an Asian correspondent.

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