It is no secret that businesses – regardless of whether they live in the online realm or in the bricks-and-mortar world – are relying more heavily on their IT systems and technology in general than ever before to deliver more agile business processes and simplified administration.

But with that growing reliance on technology has come risk, since a growing number of businesses have found themselves unable to transact or carry on with their day-to-day operations when their IT systems aren’t available.
"While IT systems and their accompanying hardware platforms are becoming more reliable, the increased reliance companies have on those systems to be up and running constantly is canceling things out,” explains Dick Sharod, African regional director at Stratus Technologies
"So, even though systems are down far less than what they were before, the lost income and damage to reputation that takes place when a company isn’t able to make use of its IT systems is far greater than it’s ever been. And this means that there's an even greater argument for high-availability solutions,” Sharod says.
Sharod adds that companies don’t realise how dangerous a game they’re playing when they gamble with the availability of their IT systems, they are in fact also gambling with their business.
“Most think that 99% availability is a more than sufficient availability level for their IT systems to achieve. What they don’t realise is that this translate into 3 days of downtime a year – enough to put most businesses out of business for good,” he says.
In a similar way, what’s termed as high availability today – 99.95% uptime – sounds impressive, but in fact isn’t.
Sharod says that 99.95% availability translates into 4.38 hours of downtime a year – a potentially catastrophic amount of time if you’re in any business or pursuit that’s related to the financial, healthcare or law enforcement sector.
“If you want an idea of just how catastrophic four hours of downtime is, take the example of an average sized bank with a fleet of 3,600 ATMs and a bank charge of one dollar per transaction,” Sharod explains.
“Now assume that during a busy Saturday morning, each ATM can carry out one  transaction every minute, and since there are 3,600 ATMs, the bank will on average carry out 216,000 transactions per hour. That means the bank would garner $216,000 of revenue in an hour of transacting,” he says.
“Unfortunately, IT failures occur when one least expects. And it’s plausible that 4.38 hours of downtime can be experienced on a particular Saturday morning, essentially losing that particular bank $946,080 – not counting the damage to reputation and losses encountered through the payment of fines.
“And this is with a solution that claims to deliver 99.5% availability a year,” Sharod says.
“Similarly, a retailer with a plausible $3,000 passing through its tills a minute would stand to lose $180,000 if systems were down for an hour – and $788,400 if they were using a high-availability (99.95% uptime) solution and 4.38 hours of downtime was experienced,” Sharod says.
“Both of these businesses would however do well to consider a solution one level of availability up from ‘high-availability’ that offers them greater 99.999% availability.
“This translates into somewhere in the region of five minutes of downtime a year – and would render the losses associated with the banking example and retail example no more than $18,000 and $15,000 respectively – a stark contrast to the $946,080 and $788,400 they would have otherwise experienced,” he says.
“And we can guarantee that a solution delivering 99.999% availability won’t cost anywhere near what the potential losses associated with using a solution offering 99.95% availability would,” he says.
Sharod says that 99.999% availability is commonly termed continuous availability and that companies should be receiving anywhere between an extra 9 or 5 on the end of this.
“In December 2009 Stratus launched a Zero Downtime program to highlight the fact that customers should be expecting their systems, for all practical purposes, to remain online all the time, which meant a guarantee of no unscheduled downtime. We strongly believe in providing the highest levels of availability, and businesses should understand that it can be achieved,” he concludes.