4 Ways to Minimize Downtime Caused by Human Error

4 Ways to Minimize Downtime Caused by Human Error

Many experienced IT professionals will agree that human error is a major cause of downtime, but they may not be aware that human error is the cause of data center downtime approximately 70% of the time. Downtime can cost businesses anywhere from $140,000 per hour on the low end and $540,000 per hour on the high end.

Companies today have IT architectures that are extremely complex, and too often they are not documented, exacerbating the risk of error and the severity of the consequences. Fortunately, IT managers can take steps to prevent incidents due to human error and mitigate the effects of downtime.

Understand Business Processes and Dependencies

The complexity of modern IT environments can make it difficult to recognize single points of failure and locate the root cause of service loss when it does occur. IT workloads may be distributed across servers, data centers, and public clouds. This is why it is essential for organizations to map out every one of their business processes and the IT resources needed to carry them out. IT teams should meet with stakeholders from each department or business unit to review their processes and inventory all IT systems and applications they rely on to complete these processes. In other words, IT managers should conduct a business impact analysis and make sure that it is widely distributed and studied across the IT organization. Without a thorough understanding of business processes, it can be easy to miss vital continuity components. 

Develop and Strictly Adhere to SOPs and MOPs

Data centers can be designed to have fully redundant power, cooling, and network infrastructure. They can also be designed to withstand some of the most severe weather events. However, if these meticulously designed and constructed facilities are not run according to strict procedures that are practiced and regularly updated, this is all for naught. As the Uptime Institute put it, “…if humans worked harder to manage the well-designed and constructed facilities better, we would have fewer outages.”

Data center managers must develop detailed MOPs (Methods of Procedure) which are contained in higher-level operating procedures called SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).  These guidelines are reviewed and updated regularly and outline steps for maintenance procedures, repairs, testing, and other routine tasks. Well-written MOPs should leave no room for interpretation and should include prerequisites, safety requirements, tools, exact sequences, and back-out plans for every procedure. Following MOPs and SOPs step by step for every procedure can greatly reduce the risk of data center downtime.

For example, Element Critical has developed detailed MOPs and SOPs that are reviewed and updated regularly. Adhering to these procedures helps us ensure that we run our data centers with military precision, and we are prepared for any adverse events. For example, we practice Emergency Operating Procedures (EOPs) on a regular basis so that when severe weather events occur, our data center staff is performing a deeply familiar routine.

Develop and Test a Disaster Recovery Plan

While companies can minimize the risk of human error, they cannot eliminate it completely. To mitigate the impact of downtime, companies should have a well-documented and tested disaster recovery plan in place. Identify downtime tolerances and evaluate disaster recovery solutions. It may not be practical or necessary to back up and recover all systems as soon as possible. A business impact analysis will be extremely useful for understanding prioritization and developing a plan to resume operations step by step. A combination of solutions is right for most businesses. These often include a backup and recovery service and a disaster recovery deployment with a reliable colocation provider. Download our IT Leader’s Disaster Recovery Guide to learn more about developing a DR Plan.

Invest in People

Last, but definitely not least, companies should invest in their people.  There are several ways to prioritize employees, the first to note is enhancing communication across the organization.  Setting a clear company vision to align goals, strengthening employee connections, and establishing open dialogue are all efforts that increase interdepartmental communication. Secondly, when IT and data center managers invest in the training of their staff on a regular basis it puts your team on the path to maximum efficiency and productivity. Managers who develop procedures and provide staff with training build their confidence, and they are the only ones who can ensure they are informed and prepared and working together as a team to prevent downtime.

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