'Downtime-Proof' Your Network With These 5 Tips

Big data connectivity has the capacity to make businesses smarter and more responsive, but companies without proper IT service management practices are really playing with fire. A miscopied value, a broken line of code, even a faulty cable can all upend uptime and derail service. And with a network of applications dependent on each other, one loose screw has the potential to bring the whole system crashing down.

As quick as your company may be at adopting the latest and greatest ITSM technology, IT professionals and change managers must pay equal attention to the resilience of their processes. Businesses stand to lose around $9,000 every minute downtime goes unresolved, according to the latest research from the Ponemon Institute. With so much to gain, how is IT evolving to defend configuration integrity in this day and age?

Don't wait until your business has been burned by downtime to do something. Start taking action now by considering these words of wisdom.

1. Establish Direct Lines of Communication Between the Executive Level and IT Personnel
Another Ponemon Institute study revealed a significant disconnect between how the C-suite and its IT professionals view downtime and its impact on operations. Although 75 percent of senior staff believe upper management "fully supports efforts to prevent and manage unplanned outages," only 31 percent of IT employees working under them agreed. If IT can't convince upper management that downtime seriously impacts productivity, what's going to motivate upper management to enact effective initiatives to preserve uptime?

Optimizing IT to be more agile is as much a cultural change as anything else, starting at the top and trickling down. That's why centralizing change requests matters. When tickets go through in a unified portal like a service desk, senior-level executives with access can track how many requests their IT personnel receive. Advanced service desk solutions also provide visibility into change management, which helps the boardroom understand day-to-day IT operations with greater clarity.

2. Always Have a Backup Handy
Where would the modern world be without the "Undo" button? With a backup configuration available, change managers can both revert failing applications back to previous functional values. Better still, this also helps IT narrow down recent changes that might have adversely affected performance.

3. Analyze Changes Before They're Released
Obviously, the best method for preventing downtime from change is to preempt problems altogether, right? You won't need a crystal ball or Tarot cards to predict the extent a single change request can have on a network - just a configuration management database. Once populated, a CMDB gives change managers an informative glimpse into exactly what to expect upon execution. If a request will set off a domino effect and compromise uptime, IT professionals will have the opportunity to remedy the situation before change actually takes off.

4. Cut Back on Human Interaction
Automating certain key change and release management processes can minimize internal errors that lead to downtime. Not only will automation reduce an IT department's workload, but automating strategic tasks eliminates repetitive and data-intensive duties prone to mistakes when a human is behind the controls. Moreover, with fewer manual checkpoints before release, changes flow through the IT department faster.

5. Monitor Recurring Errors
While IT professionals should implement procedures to avoid downtime, identifying and monitoring risky trends is absolutely worth their time. For example, if keying errors are a business's biggest concern, the cost of automating that particular area of operations will probably be less expensive than leaving a network in a constant state of jeopardy. Chances are, even a couple training sessions to reinforce best practices with IT staff wouldn't come anywhere near the hundreds of thousands of dollars a single downtime event could cost.

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