With all of the roles that the data center plays, it is critical that it maintains peak server performance whenever possible. The multiple services that can run through it, whether internal or external, employee- or client-related, as well as intensive big data projects and other initiatives, can all put a considerable burden on it.
But while poorly performing servers are a problem, an outage can cause even more significant issues. Depending on what happenst employees might be unable to perform their jobs, clients could go without critical services and a considerable amount of revenue can be lost regardless of which capabilities are lost. Worse, short-term harm could damage the company's reputation and lead to longer-lasting consequences.
Preparing for an outage
Because of the potential issues faced by most data centers, IDG News Service recently published four tips for how CIOs should handle service outages.
The news provider first emphasized the need for testing and planning for disaster. Outages are almost inevitable, with most companies experiencing approximately one every year. Understanding what they look like and what to expect can help IT professionals recognize when they happen and how to recover from the incident. Server monitoring tools can also help understand what is occurring within the data center during testing. They can let IT know where certain problems are beforehand and eliminate them before they unexpectedly become an issue.
Decision-makers should also keep their communications abilities separate from their service platform, IDG noted. The reasoning is simple: When a service goes down, the company will want to be able to speak with its employees and clients. One of the worst consequences that might result from an outage is losing customers permanently, even after services are restored. Having an open line of conversation with anyone affected by a sudden problem can minimize frustration and give customers a better idea about when functionality will be restored. This can solidify relations rather than weaken them, but only if telephone, email and other services do not go offline with the rest of the data center.
This ties into IDG's third recommendation - communication. While restoring network functionality is important, it should not come at the cost of informing key parties of what is happening and when they should expect everything to be working again. More than just ensuring that channels remain open for discussion, decision-makers should also prioritize speaking with clients throughout the incident to mitigate potential damage.
Lastly, businesses should run their backups more frequently, to ensure they actually operate under stress and to notice any problems in the systems. Running a backup for a server outage, only to experience a second outage when the backups enter play, defeats the whole point of redundancy. IDG pointed out that these systems are often more lightly equipped than the primary servers, so knowing whether they can handle regular workloads and potentially whatever caused the initial outage may be critical to their utility.
Be forward thinking with IT
IT's role in the past few years has changed from just another part of ongoing business operations to a more strategic, proactive tool, and decision-makers should work to keep it online and functioning smoothly. This will not always be possible, but by implementing best data center practices and having a deeper understanding of the infrastructure through server monitoring tools, businesses can avoid a number of problems and more quickly recover from them when they arise. Just as IT shouldn't be reactive, decision-makers shouldn't treat it as such.