Tuesday 13 September 2016

IT Downtime - Can Pharmaceuticals Afford To Bury Their Head in the Sand?

In my last blog I touched on the cost of IT downtime to pharmaceuticals and life sciences businesses. This week I wanted to expel one of the many myths around IT downtime that I often hear, which is "it will never happen to us!"

The inconvenient truth is that no pharmaceutical business can afford to bury their head in the sand when it comes to IT downtime. The EMC Global Data Protection Index 2016 study showed that  57% of UK businesses surveyed had suffered unplanned downtime in the prior 12 months. Across all organisations surveyed, the average length of unplanned downtime was 22 hours, whilst the average cost was a whopping $555,000.

The impact of IT downtime is dramatic, with a previous more in-depth study by the same organisation showing that of those businesses who experienced downtime:-

• 52% experienced a loss of employee productivity
• 34% lost revenue as a direct result of the outage
• 23% experienced a loss of customer confidence or loyalty
• 10% lost a new business opportunity

All sorts of things can cause a system failure, and although when I talk to clients in pharmaceuticals and life sciences most people's first thought is normally of fires, floods or terrorist attacks, my experience is that in reality a lot of downtime is caused by much more mundane things.

For example, the great British weather has much to answer for when it comes to IT downtime… How often has an outage been caused because the server room got too hot, or high winds blew down overhead cables, or rain flooded the basement or the local BT exchange? Then there was the site I went to recently where one part of the building had been disconnected from the rest of the network thanks to a local rodent chewing through an outdoor fibre optic cable!

Power issues and UPS problems are also a common source of downtime in my experience, as are software updates that are not carefully managed. And of course human error can play a part too.

In recent times we have all become hugely dependent on the Internet for much of our business operations, and this brings with it another potential source of costly downtime, with a recent survey by Beaming showing that:-

81% of businesses rely on email to function
51% use their Internet connectivity to also carry their voice calls
36% of businesses now rely on Internet connectivity to access mission critical cloud applications
34% use online sales tools
33% use the Internet to communicate with their mobile workforce

The same study shows that two thirds of UK businesses experienced Internet connection failures in the last year that prevented them from trading or accessing these vital online services. Of these:

• 13% started losing money immediately
• 28% suffered a financial impact after an hour of downtime
• 46% were losing money after four hours

Hopefully this goes some way to illustrate that these types of downtime issues can and do occur regularly, and as such no Pharmaceuticals Board can afford to bury their head in the sand. But the good news is that there is much that can be done to mitigate the risks and avoid the vast majority of costly downtime with a little judicious planning and investment.

In my experience, the combination of implementing the right technologies, policies, plans and user awareness/education are the key to building a resilient and reliable IT infrastructure which suffers minimal downtime.

If you have any questions or need some assistance with making your IT systems resilient, implementing systems monitoring or reviewing your disaster recovery arrangements, then please do not hesitate to contact me on 01494 444065 or email gary.swanwick@epoq-it.co.uk

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