Economic and regulatory issues do little to stop UK businesses wasting millions on unnecessary downtime

UK businesses are haemorrhaging hundreds of millions of pounds a year through suffering unplanned downtime.

UK businesses are haemorrhaging hundreds of millions of pounds a year through suffering unplanned downtime by not ensuring 24.7.365 access to data and applications. Despite being well aware of the need to improve their data management and storage processes, and with European regulation like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requiring stricter enforcement of how data is handled, our new research finds organisations are still unable to ensure data availability, protection and recovery.

When you consider that the UK’s economic position is under scrutiny globally post Brexit– with a weakened economy, devalued British pound, and poor national productivity– UK businesses must do better to retain a seat at the top table and ensure they are competitive. Against that backdrop maintaining availability of data is a relatively easy win with the right technologies in place.

The data outages and system failures that are becoming mainstream news come as enterprises remain incapable of meeting employee and end-user expectations for services, applications and other data to be constantly online. While some organisations are succeeding in improving their efforts, these increased expectations, combined with the evolving IT landscape and the move towards hybrid multi-cloud environments, continue to create significant challenges, as exposed by our Availability Report 2017, which canvassed opinions of senior IT leaders worldwide.

Businesses plunge into the Availability abyss

The vast majority of UK companies (90 per cent) admit that their IT teams cannot deliver the level of service expected by their employees, a shortfall we’ve labelled the Availability Gap. The business implications of this are huge, costing UK businesses an average of £17.9 million every year – potentially costing the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

This information should not be news to the ears of organisations, as the findings are consistent with similar surveys from years past. Yet the increasingly imposing financial threat is not leading businesses to improve their data handling. Nearly three quarters of respondents (72 per cent) remain unable to protect their data frequently enough to ensure that their business units’ expectations against data loss are met. 

Furthermore, only one in seven decision makers (15 per cent) claimed to be ‘very confident’ in their current solution’s ability to reliably backup and recover virtual machines within their SLAs. You might be wondering why we’re at this point and what businesses can do next. 

Some businesses have prioritised other requirements over availability, which is why the Availability Gap remains quite as seismic as it is. To be blunt, any organisation that isn’t confident of protecting the foundational structure of its modern datacentre, and providing total data and applications availability, must urgently re-examine its strategy and the technologies it depends on. What we’re seeing is what was ‘good enough’ isn’t good enough anymore.

These Availability challenges can massively damage employee confidence, which often results in diverting resources away from long-term or business-critical projects, making it imperative that businesses get their house in order when it comes to the availability of their data and applications.

Poor data practice demolishes digital dreams

Digital transformation is a key priority for the overwhelming majority of businesses, as confirmed by research from ESG that found 96 per cent of organisations worldwide have it on their roadmap. Enterprises are therefore keen to use digital innovation for competitive advantage but, to achieve this, businesses must be able to deliver access to services, data and applications at any time and from anywhere.

Indeed, 70 per cent of UK organisations recognise that Availability and continuous access to services is a vital requirement for digital transformation. However, two thirds of the senior IT leaders (66 per cent) also felt their efforts to go digital are being held back by unplanned downtime of services caused by cyber-attacks, infrastructure failures, network outages, and natural disasters.

While many organisations are still ‘planning’ or ‘just beginning’ their transformational journeys, more than two thirds (67 per cent) agree that these initiatives are critical or very important to their C-suite and lines of business.

Data downtime costs you customers and loses you staff

Unplanned downtime and data loss are not only creating financial concerns; they’re also causing enterprises to face public scrutiny in ways that cannot be measured by a balance sheet. Our study shows that almost half of enterprises see a loss of customer confidence, with 42 per cent of UK respondents having experienced damage to brand integrity – which affects both brand reputation and customer retention.

The ramifications of poor data practice are also being felt on internal processes, with over one third of businesses (37 per cent) suffering diminished employee confidence and nearly one quarter (22 per cent) having to move project resources to ‘clean up’ the mess.

The multi-cloud future

Unsurprisingly, the rise of cloud and its various consumption models are changing the way businesses approach data protection. More and more businesses are now viewing the cloud as a viable springboard to their digital agenda, with software-as-a-service investment expected to increase by over 50 per cent in the next 12 months. That’s great news, but it adds to the weight of data already being demanded, and will require firm adherence of SLAs. 

Indeed, two fifths of UK business leaders (39 per cent) believe cloud providers can deliver better service levels for their mission-critical data. Investments in Backup-as-a-Service (BaaS) and Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) are expected to rise similarly as organisations combine them with cloud. 

The Protection Gap challenge

Businesses are also seeing their tolerance for lost data being exceeded by IT’s inability to protect it frequently enough – leading to them experiencing what we’ve coined the Protection Gap. Two thirds of UK enterprises (66 per cent) claimed their expectations for uptime are consistently being unmet due to insufficient protection mechanisms and policies. 

While companies state that they can only tolerate 69.65 minutes of data loss per year to ‘high priority’ applications, our findings show they actually experience nearly double that – at 127 minutes of data loss per year. This discrepancy poses a major risk for all companies and impacts business success in many ways.

Where next for data driven business?

Using GDPR as an example, it is upping the stakes by placing hefty fines on data loss – up to 4 per cent of global revenues – for failing to adequately protect consumer information, especially medical and financial data.

Immediacy is king in this digital age and consumers have zero tolerance for downtime – whether that’s on a business application or in their personal lives. As a result, companies are increasingly focused on delivering the best possible user experience and, whether they realise it or not, at the heart of this is Availability.

We’ve seen a heightened level of scrutiny on security solutions by businesses and the media, but when that attack happens, how do you get back up and running? That’s a question some businesses aren’t able to answer.

Anything less than 24.7.365 access to data and applications is now unacceptable. However, as evidenced by the results of our report, this remains very much a pipedream for many organisations. It’s imperative that business leaders ask questions of their digital transformation plans and begin to have different conversations about their existing IT infrastructure, not least to avoid customer backlash and EU driven penalties and fines.

UK enterprises that don’t address this urgent need now will find they have a major crisis on their hands. With a multitude of uncontrollable issues affecting the UK business landscape, ensuring data availability is an area that is within most businesses capabilities to suitably manage, and in 2017 it must move from the ‘wish list’ and instead be guaranteed.

Richard Agnew, NW VP EMEA, Veeam
Image source: Shutterstock/hafakot