Silence can cause millions in downtime costs

The recent ransomware goldrush has clearly shown that companies will pour millions to avoid the much-dreaded system’s downtime. However, it doesn’t always take a nefarious gang of cyber thieves to cripple a network. Something as simple as failing to communicate can do the trick.

Long gone are the days when downtime for a company meant a faulty piece of machinery. The advent of computers made it possible to halt a production line or a service while people and machines remain entirely unharmed.

For example, less than two months ago, a cloud computing service provider, Fastly, went down, causing a major global internet outage. The company later admitted that a software bug was the culprit behind the outage that took out Amazon, the Financial Times, the New York Times, Reddit, and many other online businesses.

Wasted millions

Downtime is a costly adventure, and not everyone can afford it. A 2019 survey of over a thousand businesses shows that an hour of suspended activity on average costs a company $100,000. Few small or medium-sized companies could muster through a few days of downtime.

To make matters worse, wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars are likely on the low end of the costs for systems halt. Some industries are utterly dependent on continuous operation, meaning systems failure can be catastrophic.

An analysis by the Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC) claims that a single hour of downtime for the average US financial sector company costs $9.3 million, $9.0 for media & comms businesses, and $7.8 million for the government sector.

The more a business relies on continuous connectivity, the more likely it is to carry most of the burden.

“Retail companies and customers that depend on connectivity for revenue are usually the most financially impacted by downtime. Depending on their revenue, it could cost them millions of dollars or hundreds of thousands of dollars (per hour),” Andrew Wertkin, an expert in cloud tech and CSO of BlueCat Networks, told CyberNews.

According to him, downtime costs for a major corporation can be ridiculously high, with million-dollar losses per minute of unplanned downtime if no action was taken to set up a secondary service that allows for mitigating the risks.

A thousand cuts

While criminal threats to operation, such as ransomware attacks, usually come from external sources, a recipe for disaster might also be looming indoors. With companies going to the cloud in troves, there are even more ways to make mistakes that result in downtime or compromise security.

A recent report by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), an IT and data management firm, shows that 74% of businesses experienced security issues due to insufficient team collaboration. 36% of surveyed companies claim to have experienced ‘significant downtime’ due to their teams not collaborating.

Wertkin explained that with applications workload becoming ever more complex, it’s getting ever more challenging to see the ‘big picture’ view in the process.

“Applications need to respond rapidly to users since degraded performance drops off engagement rapidly. Applications must be secure, and devices need to consistently probe for issues and stop users,” he told CyberNews.

Having on-prem and cloud teams not collaborating is akin to driving a speeding vehicle with only one eye open. It can lead to severe complications.

According to the EMA’s report, some companies have to delay projects for multiple years due to a lack of communication between teams. Whether it’s a small company or a $100 billion worth bank, anyone can fall victim.

“Usually, it looks like a thousand cuts. Nothing is working, missing dates after dates, you can’t get the performance you want, you’ve got a bunch of people trying to get stuff done, but things are failing, and there’s no collaboration or planning with the people who have a ton of experience and can add a lot of value,” Wertkin told CyberNews.

According to him, something as simple as sufficient notice of an upcoming change or deployment could help to mitigate most downtime risks.

Not a tech problem

Going cloud-native could be the answer to mitigating the risk of a network outage. At least, in theory.

According to Wertkin, a correctly deployed cloud-native technology would improve reliability as it can auto-scale, bypassing unexpected issues caused by peak usage. The whole idea of cloud-native technology should mean that there are multiple clusters ready to supplement necessary compute.

“However, we see downtime all the time with those capabilities, and that’s because of unforeseen faults. Like with everything else, no technology pattern is going to fix issues around reliability and downtime unless it’s architected and implemented appropriately,” he explained.

However, investment in cloud technologies over the last year has caused what some call a ‘hangover’ in the cloud. A situation where a rushed transition to the cloud meant cutting corners on security and forgoing good practices, inevitably resulting in a poor perception of the cloud-native approach.

Harnessing cooperation between on-prem and cloud teams is necessary, Wertking said in an earlier interview, for companies to benefit the most. There’s a wealth of knowledge on both sides and avoiding cooperation only adds to the risks of having felt the costly nature of downtime firsthand.

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Securing the cloud: cyber risks and best practices you need to keep in mind

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