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what is network downtime

What is Network Downtime? | September 18th, 2020

In any business, time is money. This is especially true on the IT side of a company. Network failures and outages, called network downtime, can cost companies thousands of dollars in lost revenue, lost productivity and recovery costs. On top of these costs, downtime can be frustrating for your business and its employees, particularly for the IT department.

So what exactly is network downtime and how can it be fixed? In this article, we’ll explain what network downtime is, why it happens and how to prevent network downtime in your business.

network downtime frustration

What Is Network Downtime?

Downtime refers to periods when a system cannot complete its primary function. Depending on the situation, this system may be temporarily unavailable, offline or completely unable to operate. Downtime may apply to a single application, computer, server or entire network. If a critical component of the network goes down, this can result in network downtime.

Depending on the nature of a company, network downtime can look very different. Network downtime within a retail business may result in point-of-sale (POS) terminals not working or phones going down, leaving the business unable to make sales. For a service provider, this may look like an inoperable portal, cutting off service to its customers. Regardless of what it looks like, network downtime is a massive loss of service that impacts the company’s network and functionality.

planned network downtime

What Is Unplanned and Planned Downtime?

Not all downtime is the same. Downtime for a network is split into two types — planned and unplanned downtime. So what is planned downtime versus unplanned downtime?

Planned downtime is a period where the IT department intentionally takes down the network to complete scheduled maintenance and upgrades. While the network is not useable at this time, planned downtime is essential to ensure that the network functions optimally in the long term.

Unplanned downtime is another story. This is an unexpected network outage that can occur at any time due to unforeseen system failures. Unplanned downtime can occur as a result of many different failures, including hardware and software malfunctions, operator mistakes or even cyberattacks. This is the most costly type of downtime, as it can occur during business hours.

reasons for planned downtime

Reasons for Planned Downtime

System owners and IT staff set up a planned outage ahead of time. These are typically scheduled during off-hours to minimize service interruptions and sale losses. Planned downtime can facilitate many IT maintenance tasks, including the following:

  • System diagnostics: IT staff can run diagnostic tests during this time to identify and isolate potential problems.
  • Hardware replacements: IT can take down applicable systems during network downtime to replace outdated or malfunctioning hardware.
  • Network repairs: Staff may use a planned network downtime to repair hardware, restart certain systems or perform software patches and maintenance.
  • Configuration updates: Planned downtime may be used to change the network configuration to make updates or fix errors and omissions.
  • Application updates: Especially in the case of essential applications, network downtime can be used to switch out, update or reconfigure network applications.
  • Expected natural events: In some cases, a network may be taken down in anticipation of a natural event, such as an oncoming storm or power outage.

Planned downtime can sometimes be avoided or mitigated by implementing a rolling upgrade schedule, where the IT team takes down portions of the system for upgrades and maintenance without shutting down the entire network. When planned downtime is absolutely necessary, however, it is essential to communicate the downtime and schedule it carefully to avoid busy periods.

unplanned downtime

Reasons for Unplanned Downtime

Out of the two types of downtime, unplanned downtime is the most harmful to a business. So what is unplanned downtime? Essentially, this is any network downtime that is not expected. As for what causes network downtime, there are many reasons why a network may fail unexpectedly. Some of these causes of network downtime are explained in detail below:

  • Human error: Computers don’t make mistakes, but when humans are involved, errors can happen. The more humans involved in the system, the more likely human error can occur. These mistakes can be as simple as accidentally unplugging essential hardware, following outdated procedures or taking an ill-advised technical shortcut. Regardless, human error is the most common cause of unplanned network downtime. In one survey, 97% of IT personnel stated that human error is the cause or a contributing factor in at least some network outages.
  • Understaffed IT departments: A well-staffed IT department is essential for keeping networks, servers and hardware running smoothly. Unfortunately, not all companies allocate sufficient funds and personnel to ensure that their IT departments are adequately staffed. Short-staffed IT departments mean that staff is spread thin trying to maintain and support daily operations. For this reason, they may not have the time and resources to monitor the network or perform sufficient maintenance. As a result, the network is at an increased risk of unplanned downtime.
  • Outdated equipment and software: The older the components of a network are, the more likely they can fail and trigger a system outage. With continuous updates and technological advancements, hardware and software systems become outdated within the span of a few years, resulting in reduced performance and system crashes. Because of this threat to network functionality, it is essential to take regular inventory of IT components and proactively plan necessary upgrades.
  • Hardware failures: Engineering has allowed hardware to have significantly increased functional lives, but network devices will break down eventually. Outdated hardware, as previously noted, is especially vulnerable to failure, but hardware problems can occur even in newer equipment. While built-in redundancies can help mitigate the effects of hardware failure, this isn’t always possible to achieve for smaller businesses, resulting in network downtime due to a single point of failure.
  • Server bugs: Server bugs and vulnerabilities also pose a significant threat to performance. Any IT professional knows that keeping server operating systems up to date is necessary, but these need to be done right. If a patch isn’t applied quickly, it can lead to the system being vulnerable to bugs and holes the patch was designed to fix. On the other hand, if a patch is applied without being tested, it can result in applications being corrupted to the point of failure. The best solution is to test patches immediately and thoroughly when they come available and apply them as soon as tests are complete.
  • Incorrect configurations: incorrect device configurations are another significant cause of network downtime. Configuration changes can create outages if done incorrectly. A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that 36% of router problems resulting in downtime were a direct result of configuration errors.
  • Incompatible changes: Unlike configuration errors, incompatible changes occur when an intended change does not work with the systems and equipment already in place. One survey found that 44% of IT professionals agreed that incompatible network changes resulted in downtime or performance problems several times a year.
  • Power outages: Power failures happen unexpectedly and affect every system within a network. These unexpected outages can be mitigated by uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and generator systems, but it is essential to test these power backup systems regularly and maintain them to ensure functionality.
  • Natural disasters: Natural disasters represent a small portion of network downtime causes, but they can be devastating for business networks affected. Unexpected natural disasters such as storms, earthquakes, and tornadoes can take down power services and communications and even destroy hardware.

While some causes of network downtime cannot be avoided, many of them can be minimized with a fully staffed IT department, regular maintenance protocols and the use of network monitoring software to catch problems before they take down the network.

cost for network downtime

The Cost of Network Downtime

When systems go down, it can represent massive losses — according to Gartner, companies lose an average of $5,600 per minute of network downtime or over $300,00 per hour. While companies can schedule planned network downtime to minimize these costs, unplanned downtime can result in significant unexpected costs, which can be especially painful for smaller businesses. But where do these costs come from?

The costs of downtime come from four primary sources, explained in detail below:

  • Lost revenue: The primary cost of network downtime is the loss of revenue due to being unable to provide critical services to customers. For example, if your customer service team cannot access an essential system, such as a POS terminal, you may lose current or potential customers and their sales.
  • Lost productivity: Outages of essential work systems may result in employees being unable to work entirely. As a result, employees are being paid for the time they’re not working, while the IT team may be working overtime to perform maintenance or fix the source of the downtime.
  • Recovery costs: There are several IT costs incurred while fixing the source of the downtime. These include the overtime, repair and replacement costs needed to remedy the issue. Also, network failures can result in a breach of a service level agreement (SLA), which may result in the company losing certification or incurring penalty fees. On top of this, data losses and damage to customers can result in legal costs.
  • Intangible costs: Finally, multiple costs are unquantifiable but contribute to the total losses incurred by network downtime. These include increased inefficiencies, losses in customer and employee confidence and even reduced business competitiveness.

Most companies quantify downtime by calculating productivity and revenue losses, but recovery and intangible costs are important to consider as well, as they can result in increased long-term costs following a period of downtime.

communications for network downtime

How to Communicate Network Downtime

Regardless of why downtime occurs, when it happens, it’s essential to communicate with all affected staff. The Joint Commission International, which directs compliance for hospitals, recommends that clear, timely and accurate communication of downtime progress is best in any downtime situation, planned or unplanned. This is good advice for any industry. Quick communication reduces staff stress and minimizes the distractions for the IT department by reducing inquiries about the downtime event.

In a planned downtime event, early communication to all affected employees will help them prepare appropriately. In these communications, including the following information:

  • All systems and applications expected to be down
  • Which departments and service areas will be affected
  • The start time and expected duration of the downtime
  • The reason for the downtime
  • Any changes expected after the downtime is complete, such as system enhancements

In an unplanned downtime event, communicate immediately following the discovery of the event. Using whatever communication channels are available, convey the following information to all affected staff members:

  • All systems and applications affected by the downtime
  • IT’s awareness of and work toward resolving the downtime
  • Any expected effects on external customers
  • The reason for the downtime, if known
  • The expected duration of the downtime

In addition to the initial communication, it may also be wise to communicate when the downtime event is over. Whether a planned or unplanned downtime event, communicate the resolution immediately to all affected parties and direct them to contact the IT team if they are still encountering issues.

network servers

How to Calculate Network Downtime

The ideal situation for any business is that their network would never go down. However, downtime, whether planned or unplanned, is inevitable. Because of this, it’s important to know how network downtime is calculated and how to interpret these calculations when provided by your service providers. It’s also important to know what uptime and availability mean within the context of network downtime.

First, let’s define uptime versus availability. These terms are often used synonymously, but mean slightly different things and are expressed in differing units:

  • Uptime: This term is used to refer to the amount of time that a network or system is working properly. It is expressed in units of time, such as years, months, days, minutes and seconds. In other words, it is the time when you are not experiencing network downtime.
  • Availability: Availability is the percentage of time within a time interval in which a network or system is working properly. For example, if the network is down for a full day within a calendar month, that means that the system was up for 29 out of 30 days, resulting in an average availability of 96.666% for that month.

Companies often boast their uptime using terms of availability. For example, a cloud service provider can advertise a guaranteed availability of 99% within a calendar year for one of their servers. This means that you could expect up to 3.65 days of downtime within a year or 7.2 hours of downtime within a month.

When talking about availability, you may hear the term “five nines.” This is a highly desired availability of 99.999%, which translates to about 5 minutes of downtime a year. Practically speaking, this is as close to 100% availability as a company can expect. While desirable, this level of availability is also costly, as it requires significant redundancies to maintain. This is usually only found among large service providers because of the costs needed to maintain this level of availability. Keep in mind that service level providers boasting five nines will also tend to be more expensive to work with because of the costs involved in maintaining their high level of availability.

This brings us to how to measure downtime and availability in your own company. The formula is very simple — availability = uptime/total time. Below is a step-by-step instruction for how to calculate this and what each term means.

  • Start by calculating how much network downtime your company experienced within a given period. For example, you can look at the last month of network functionality and find that your network was down for a total of 5 hours and 6 minutes, which converts to 306 minutes.
  • Next, take the period for which you are calculating downtime and convert that to the same unit of measurement. In our example, we are calculating for a 30-day month, which converts to 43,200 minutes.
  • Subtract the downtime from the total time within the period to find the total uptime. In our example, 43,200 minus 306 equals 42,894, so the company experienced 42,894 minutes of uptime within the month.
  • Finally, divide the uptime by the total time. In our example, this would mean you divide 42,894 by 43,200, which gives you 0.99291. Multiply this by 100 to get your percentage availability, which in this case would be 99.291% availability.

It’s important to know how this calculation works, but also note that network monitoring software will often calculate uptime and availability automatically.

employees working on network equipment

How to Prevent Network Downtime

So how do you fix your network downtime to maximize uptime and availability? The key is to minimize risk, focus on maintenance and implement redundancies. By setting up IT systems to prepare for the worst, your company can minimize downtime, enabling you to focus on day-to-day operations. Below are just a few steps any company can take to avoid network downtime:

  • Schedule updates and maintenance regularly: First, it is essential to schedule regular maintenance with your IT team. Plan ahead for periods where the team will come in during off-hours to check the stability and security of hardware, software and general systems. If the maintenance requires planned downtime, be particularly careful to communicate to all affected parties and plan ahead to maximize efficiency and productivity during the downtime period.
  • Conduct regular server tests: Schedule server tests alongside general IT maintenance to make sure your servers work properly. These tests should also include checking all backup servers, both physical and virtual, as these backups are your company’s lifeline in the event of a server failure.
  • Perform facility tests: On top of testing your hardware and software on a regular basis, be sure to also check your facilities. Human error, animal activity, fire hazards and water damage can all pose a threat to the safety of your network hardware. Be sure to perform regular facility checks in addition to IT maintenance, looking specifically for hazards like faulty wires, airflow blockages, tripping hazards and temperature issues.
  • Implement network monitoring: Finally, implement systems that can empower your IT team to get a better view of your network. Network monitoring systems continuously check the health of all components within a network and alert your IT team of any problems so they can act immediately.

By implementing these steps, your company can effectively reduce your chances of experiencing catastrophic network downtime. This is especially true if you choose to use high-quality network monitoring software backed by a third-party maintenance provider to augment your IT team’s effectiveness.

employees working on network downtime

Work With a Network Expert

If your company is looking for a third-party maintenance provider to help you avoid network downtime, Worldwide Services can help. Our around-the-clock network operations center services supplement your existing IT team, managing performance and quickly resolving any infrastructure failures. Our services include high-quality network monitoring and infrastructure management, network security and lifecycle management, asset recovery and maintenance programs topped with 24×7 technical support and field services.

But why choose third-party network monitoring? When you work with Worldwide Service’s 24×7 network operations center monitoring and reporting solutions, you can experience the following benefits:

  • Increased uptime: Network downtime is costly, but Worldwide Services can help prevent it. With lightning-quick response rates, our services detect, record and resolve issues before they affect your business. This means your company can enjoy maximum uptime so you can focus on your business and its customers.
  • Improved visibility: Worldwide Services allows your company to benefit from third-party maintenance while still maintaining full visibility of your network at all times. Our web-based portal allows you to see what we see, including key metrics, active tickets, alarms and trends, so you can watch your infrastructure performance right alongside us.
  • Expert advice: On top of our cutting-edge technology and sophisticated software, our staff consists of experts in the industry with decades of experience under their belts. With our deep knowledge of the industry, we can be your go-to resource for solutions.
  • Cost savings: Custom solutions from Worldwide Services enhance your network while helping lower your costs. By maximizing uptime and reducing the workload for your IT department, we can help free your teams to focus on day-to-day operations and business objectives.

Contact Worldwide Services today to learn more about our network monitoring services and how we can help you prevent network downtime.

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What is EOL for technology

What is EOL and What Does It Stand For? | August 14th, 2020

“EOL” is an acronym that can make any IT administrator uneasy, especially one on a tight budget. It signals the impending obsolescence of hardware or software technology and may make you feel like you’re being forced into an upgrade.

Fortunately, that’s not the case. EOL has several different stages associated with it, and many technologies can actually be managed for some time after the manufacturer stops supporting them. If your equipment is approaching its EOL, you can prepare for it and take steps to keep it working as long as possible and maximize your investment.

What Is EOL and What Does It Stand For?

EOL stands for “end of life,” which occurs to hardware and software. It is the stage of a product in which it becomes outdated or unsupported by the manufacturer.

  • What is the end of life in hardware? Typically, hardware reaches its end of life when it can’t keep up with the needs of new systems and software.
  • What is the end of life in software? EOL software may be outdated or may not work with modern hardware needs.

Every piece of technology reaches obsolescence at some point. It won’t last forever. When hardware or software reaches that point, manufacturers typically suggest replacing or upgrading it to the newest version they offer. It may have more features but, of course, that will cost you. The EOL meaning in hardware also applies to a device that is too outdated to run new versions of software.

Any EOL product that is not properly maintained can spell trouble for a company.

What Happens When Something Reaches EOL?

Knowing what happens when a system reaches EOL allows you to better prepare for it. As a product approaches its EOL, you’ll typically get notifications for it. A popup may appear on your system stating that the software will lose manufacturer support on a certain date, or you may get an email about it. Different manufacturers have different timelines for this process, so it will vary.

Cisco, a major technology provider, for instance, has a helpful milestone table that lays out different dates where they offer certain levels of support. They typically issue notifications about six months before they stop selling a product. After the end-of-sale date, they may offer support and release maintenance patches for a specific number of years, but once that timeframe runs out, you’re on your own.

security breaches from EOL technology

The biggest risk of a product reaching EOL is that it could open your system up to security breaches. Maintenance patches frequently fix security issues, and these patches often respond to the changing landscape of hackers and technology, which is why they recur.

For example, let’s say hackers come up with a new type of malware. Within a week, a provider may issue a patch, but anyone who doesn’t immediately update their system doesn’t have the protection it offers. Hackers often target these types of businesses, and if you don’t get maintenance patches at all, you could be wide open to new security breaches. Many companies become easy targets when they use out-of-date technology, such as the victims of a huge ransomware hack in 2017.

Other risks associated with EOL products include:

  • Compatibility: Other systems that a company has may not play nicely with outdated hardware or software. Of course, if your systems aren’t working together, you’ll likely experience productivity issues. Downtime and errors become more common.
  • Hard-to-find components: Spare parts may be incredibly difficult to come by as the technology ages and isn’t produced anymore. After a few years of being EOL, these parts might be harder to find or more expensive to procure.
  • Legal ramifications: If you work in a sensitive environment like finances or healthcare, your clients and legal authorities expect you to conduct business responsibly. They trust that you can handle personal data with professionalism and care. If your systems can’t do that, you could face significant penalties, not to mention the damage to your brand’s image.

How to Prepare for EOL in Hardware and Software

If your equipment is on it’s way out, you can minimize the impact of EOL, including safety risks and outdated functionality, by taking a few precautionary measures.

  • Ensure security and stability. Review your system carefully, so you’re well-aware of any shortcomings or areas where improvement may be necessary. Fix any bugs present so your system can stand up to the security needs of your company.
  • Ensure speed. Much of the time, EOL occurs when software outpaces hardware. If you can, consider making smaller hardware updates that allow your system to keep up with software. Without this step, you may see more downtime and lose productivity.
  • Stay up-to-date on new technology. Part of maintaining an EOL product involves knowing when the right time to upgrade is. Learn what the newest products are and follow up on them. Read reviews to make sure the technology works as promised and can meet your needs if you eventually need to switch.
  • Update the system as much as possible. Conduct regular updates as long as you can for an EOL product to keep it as prepared as you can.
  • Make a plan. Whether you want to start setting aside money for the next piece of equipment or increase maintenance efforts to make the most of your investment, you need to be ready for the unique needs of an EOL product. Consider how it integrates with your system and what other programs would be affected if the EOL product were to go down. Can you adjust appropriately or will you see significant losses in productivity?

It all comes down to preparation. While you want to maintain your product as long as possible, you’ll also want to carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks.

Don’t get so starry-eyed by new features that you underestimate the value of your existing equipment. Minimal adjustments can offer large dividends, and sometimes, the losses in productivity simply aren’t enough to warrant a new investment. Other times, of course, it makes more sense to upgrade. Map out your system and make this consideration carefully.

How to Keep EOL Hardware Running

work with a third party maintenance expert

If you’ve decided to keep your EOL hardware moving, you’ll have to get creative. The best way to do so is to enlist experts who can optimize your system for the issues inherent in EOL products.

They may have better sources for getting those hard-to-find parts and can help with the cost vs. benefits analysis. Experts who know the system can help you meet productivity requirements and security needs with their knowledge of the system and your operation.

Work With a Third-party Maintenance Provider

One way to work with an expert is to use a third-party maintenance provider. As manufacturer support runs out on an EOL product, your third-party maintenance company can step in to help keep things moving and offer proactive maintenance practices.

Here at Worldwide Services, we offer affordable service that can help accomplish a variety of IT tasks, including extending the life of your hardware with minimal downtime. We aim to maximize your uptime and profitability by learning about your business needs and optimizing your system accordingly.

To learn more about a partnership with Worldwide Services, contact us today.

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what is network uptime

What is Network Uptime? | July 10th, 2020

Your business network is an invaluable part of your organization. Whether you’re inputting sensitive patient data, managing construction projects or completing administrative tasks, network uptime supports smooth operations. Though uptime is vital, it isn’t always guaranteed. Let’s take a deeper look at uptime and ways you can optimize it for your business.

What Does Network Uptime Mean?

Network uptime refers to the time when a network is up and running. In contrast, downtime is the time when a network is unavailable. A network’s uptime is typically measured by calculating the ratio of uptime to downtime within a year, then expressing that ratio as a percentage.

The concept of “five-nines” — a network availability of 99.999% — has been an industry gold standard for many years. This uptime percentage translates to about 5.26 minutes of unplanned downtime a year. Though five-nines or 100% uptime rates may be difficult to achieve, getting as close as possible is a worthwhile pursuit. Your business likely feels the impact of even a fraction of uptime difference. Making sure your service provider meets your requirements can help you minimize the costs of unplanned downtime.

Service Level Agreements and Uptime

Service level agreements (SLAs) promise a set of performance standards between a service provider and their client. In an SLA, a provider may:

  • Identify customer needs
  • Provide a foundation client comprehension
  • Address potential conflicts
  • Create a space for dialogue
  • Discuss practical expectations

SLAs can help you determine whether a service provider meets your company’s needs and wants. The central components of an SLA are uptime, packet delivery and latency. While successful packet delivery and low latency are important, uptime is an especially crucial component to consider. Network service with high availability translates to maximum profitability for your business.

The Costs of Downtime

Network failure is a huge inconvenience, but even the best systems confront unforeseen issues. A power outage, for example, could cause hardware failures and threaten network reliability. In this scenario, you could increase your network uptime with a backup power supply. But if you haven’t planned for the situation, you might face extra difficulties taking reactive measures and returning your network to normal function.

Network downtime can cost a business thousands of dollars each minute, which makes 24/7 network monitoring essential for many industries. With Worldwide Services, you can protect your business from downtime with our recurring network and IT maintenance. Worldwide Services can help you prevent unnecessary network outages and prepare for when they occur. We’re experienced with a variety of different industries and are equipped to make uptime minutes count.

How to Determine Server Uptime

You can calculate your network uptime with some simple math:

  • 24 hours per day x 365 days per year = 8,760 hours per year
  • Number of hours your network is up and running per year ÷ 8,760 hours per year x 100 = Yearly uptime percentage

For example, if your network is down for one hour total during an entire year, this is how you calculate your network uptime:

  • 8,759 hours ÷ 8,760 hours = 0.99988
  • 0.99988 x 100 = 99.988%

You can also use free or paid website monitoring services to check your server uptime. A website monitoring service tracks and tests your servers and may send an alert if something goes wrong. Besides checking network uptime, comprehensive monitoring services offer feature-heavy programs to keep your business operational during network disturbances.

Worldwide Services can support your network by resolving hardware failure, managing your network performance and providing 24/7 network monitoring through our network operations center (NOC) services. With our services, you can significantly decrease network downtime and maintain optimal customer satisfaction. Since our IT management team handles your network issues, your staff can be more productive at what they do best. You can also stay up-to-date about what’s going on with your network with our real-time tracking services.

How to Improve Network Uptime

Your business can learn how to increase network uptime by analyzing the structure of your network architecture. Network architecture is typically composed of four main parts — the core network, interconnection networks, access networks and customer applications. The core network is the network component from which we expect optimal performance, or five-nines. The core network is also essential to the other parts of the network as its functions support customers who are interconnected with the access network.

From the access network, clients can open customer applications. But if there is a problem with the access network, such as the local area network (LAN), clients may receive less than optimal results. The LAN may be negatively affected by the infrastructure of the provider’s network terminating unit (NTU) that connects the customer’s equipment on location with the network.

Decreasing downtime starts with identifying potential points of failure like above and addressing them before they cause issues. These are our top network uptime best practices and ways to improve network uptime for your business.

1. IT Mapping

When you assess the core components of your network architecture, you can create an IT map detailing network device availability and network health. The map should show all your IT assets and services, including inventory hardware, software, and relevant locations and vendors. When completed, you can use the IT map to:

  • Note how network components are connected with one another.
  • Consider how one failure might affect another device or functionality in the overall IT system.
  • Identify what components are most essential.
  • Note unnecessary redundancies and potential issues with physical resources.
  • Look for vulnerabilities and re-organize accordingly.

In addition to hardware, it’s a good idea to get a headcount of all the other IT resources that are critical to the system. This may include:

  • Human resources
  • Budget
  • Executive officials
  • End users

Map these resources in regards to their qualitative and quantitative effects. Operational budgets, for example, could be mapped to recovering your IT system.

2. Hardware Warranties

The migration from physical systems to cloud services has lessened the weight many businesses once carried knowing they could lose vital infrastructure. Though cloud services are on the rise, many businesses still rely on smaller devices like projectors or tablets for essential functions. While repairs can be an option, relying on a warranty for hardware repairs is usually the better option.

If a piece of hardware is still under warranty, you shouldn’t have to pay for repairs or replacement, which helps you minimize the total costs of system downtime. It can be helpful to keep track of how long a warranty lasts for a piece of hardware, what’s covered under the warranty and which pieces of hardware are reaching the end of their warranty. If a piece of hardware is nearing the end of its warranty, compare the costs of repairing it and replacing it with upgraded hardware.

3. Software Management

It’s also helpful to keep track of your software, whether you have Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscriptions or local programs. A system performance management (SPM) provider can help you manage your software inventory, including titles, upgrades and deployment. The most useful SPM programs have holistic functionality that also lets you monitor overall network health by collecting and analyzing other operational metrics.

With a solutions-focused SPM provider, you’ll only need one platform to manage your network performance. Effective SPM programs should be able to manage and solve your network issues, all while keeping you in the loop with automatic updates.

4. Faster Connections

Faster Ethernet connections can help prevent outages due to traffic overload. Many businesses connect their servers to the internet with Ethernet connections that run at 10 gigabits per second. To support uptime, consider switching to a faster Ethernet speed like 40 gigabits per second. Depending on your network, you may experience dramatic spikes in usage that can bog down a slower Ethernet connection. A 40-gigabit per second router-to-router link can keep things running smoothly for everybody.

5. Security Patches

It’s common for security updates to take place immediately as they become available, but this timing can be cumbersome for your business. Most security patches require system restarts, which can disrupt your uptime during crucial operating hours. Plan patches for a time when you can increase your network’s safeguards and reduce disturbances.

When you trust Worldwide Services to maintain your server systems, our technical support team can help manage your security patches. With the right patch timing, you can enjoy better productivity, increased security strength and greater regulatory compliance.

6. Caches

A cache is a data-layer stored in a computer’s random access memory (RAM), which operates with much higher speeds than standard hardware storage. Its basic use is to recall small amounts of application or web information that may be useful when a user returns to a location they’ve already visited.

Caching uses caches to store data in memory so it can be accessed easily later on. In the event of network downtime, a slow connection or a traffic spike, users can still use cached content. Caching is the principle way popular social media sites can handle large network surges. With increased or improved caching, your business may be able to facilitate uptime when your network is under stress.

7. Performance Testing

Great network performance requires thorough attention to your network’s efficiency from every angle. Throughput, bandwidth and other metrics can all impact how well your network is running. Website monitoring tools usually have numerous features to help you track these metrics, including:

  • Domain lookup times
  • Uptime rates
  • Individual page element load times
  • Redirection times
  • First byte download times
  • Connection times

Perhaps the greatest benefit of network monitoring is its nonstop service. This level of surveillance keeps you in the loop with your network without the need for constant attention. Most application performance monitoring (APM) software can even give you a root cause of a problem, saving you the trouble and ultimately expediting the troubleshooting process.

8. Redundancy Building

Redundancy refers to any backup schemes that are in place in case of a network failure. This can occur in several ways:

  • Providers can use alternative network paths or replacement equipment to build a redundant system.
  • Businesses may stock extra switches and routers to swap out a failing unit quickly and diminish its effects.
  • Businesses may program network protocols to switch paths when an initial path has failed.
  • Businesses may connect subnets to multiple routers within a network. These routers can update one another on the best path for a signal.
  • Businesses may use two cables to make a connection. If one cable is disconnected, traffic can continue flowing through the other.

Wide access networks (WAN) were once the norm for network connections. But the rise of cloud computing has made experts question their reliability. Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) offers another means of network redundancy. SD-WAN has the capacity to migrate network traffic to the internet once traditional systems have failed.

9. Emerging Technologies

HTML5 is an emerging software that improves upon HTML, the code that describes the layout of webpages. HTML5 can manage text, video and graphics without the need for any extra plugins. On its own, HTML only employs text function. Effective programming with HTML5 can lead to better network performance.

Managed IT services can also be considered an emerging technology. These services are one way to implement the above tips easily and effectively. Worldwide Services offers an array of solutions for your network needs, including:

  • Professional consulting and project management to secure your network
  • Repairs that extend asset recovery programs
  • Assistance planning, designing, building and operating your network

Work With a Network Maintenance Expert

Every business has network uptime needs that impact the welfare of their clients and their company. A reliable network can play a pivotal role in satisfying customers, improving productivity, increasing revenues and driving overall savings.

Maintaining your network should be a top priority for your business. Curtailing network failure begins at the hardware level. Worldwide Services can provide the third-party maintenance you need at lower costs with an increased return on investment. NetGuard, our around-the-clock technical assistance, keeps your best interests in mind, including saving money and increasing network availability. Contact us to get started today.

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What is network optimization

What is Network Optimization | June 12th, 2020

Network optimization encompasses the complete set of technologies and strategies a business deploys to improve its network domain functionality. Network and network domain refer to your organization’s set of hardware devices, plus the software and supportive technology allowing those devices to connect and communicate with one another.

One of the primary goals of network optimization is to provide the best possible network experience for users. We’ll cover the areas where organizations can begin to improve these connections — and what they stand to benefit from even small boosts in network optimization.

Why Is Network Optimization Important?

Network optimization works to enhance the speed, security and reliability of your company’s IT ecosystem. Improving that ecosystem seems intuitive in theory, yet it is challenging to master.

Strains on networks continue to grow due to the following factors: 

  • More devices are being brought into the workplace.
  • More cybersecurity threats are maturing.
  • More software applications are being used.
  • More data is collected, aggregated and shared — often simultaneously.
  • More teams are going remote.
  • More external entities require access to your networks.

The result? Your in-office and remote employees, as well as your customers and clients, are unable to use relevant software, share documents, send messages and emails, access data, browse your domain, make purchases or read your company blog from any digital device.

In short, network optimization is essential for business activities that require 24/7 access and real-time usage of digital technology. 

How to Measure Network Optimization Strategies

IT teams use several key metrics to track a successful optimization scheme. These metrics are most effective when viewed together to provide a holistic picture of your network’s strengths and weaknesses. Consult our guide here for deeper network monitoring and analytics to track.

1. Traffic Usage

Traffic usage, or utilization, displays which parts of your network are the busiest and which tend to stay idle. Utilization also gauges the times when “peak” traffic occurs. To measure these differing streams of network traffic, IT teams calculate a ratio between current network traffic and the peak amounts networks are supposed to handle, represented as a percentage.

By tracking these usage percentages and peaks, your team can better understand what networks see the most usage internally from office employees and externally from customers and prospects. This information allows you to prioritize updates and security layers according to what is best for the network.

2. Latency

Latency refers to delays in network devices communicating with one another. In IT, these communication streams are known as “packets” and come in two forms: one-way or round trip.

Both one-way and round-trip packets allow data to be exchanged across a network, which is at the core of all functioning network connections. Frequent latency suggests traffic and bandwidth congestion may be slowing everything from webpage loading speed to VoIP calls.

network optimization helps with latency

3. Availability vs. Downtime

A network’s availability metrics reveal how often particular hardware or software functions as it should. For example, businesses can track the availability scores of everything from SD-WANs and servers to specific business apps or websites.

Many IT network ecosystems aim for the goal of availability in five nines, which is an industry term for functioning properly 99.999% of the time. It’s debated whether five nines availability is possible, as it encompasses less than 30 seconds of total downtime a month. Regardless, the high goal sets a gold standard for availability that keeps your network running reliably.

4. Network Jitter

Network jitter rates reveal how often data packets get interrupted. Properly optimized networks have minimal jitter, meaning data deliveries between devices are efficient, quick and coherent. High jitter likely means network routers are overburdened and cannot properly handle incoming and outgoing data packets.

5. Packet Loss

Packet loss happens when data packets fail to reach their target endpoint on your network. Similar to network jitter, frequent instances of packet loss disrupt some of your most basic business functions, such as sending file attachments, conducting video calls or giving wireless presentations.

The Benefits of Network Optimization

Improving your network ensures your company’s technology operates to the best of its abilities. With a high-functioning network in place, you open your organization up to the following advantages across its full tech ecosystem:

  • Improved productivity: Employees have a higher capacity for productivity as they are liberated from the headaches of slow software or frequent downtime.
  • Faster network speed: Optimization makes the entire ecosystem more interconnected and equipped to send and receive data packets quicker.
  • Heightened security: Network optimization can ensure your applications offer improved, around-the-clock network visibility.
  • More reliability: With optimization, your network can handle the ever-increasing amount and complexity of data that is pivotal to daily operations.
  • Bolstered disaster recovery: In the event of physical damage to your hardware or cyberattacks, network optimization can help prevent data mismanagement or employee accidents.
  • Boosted customer experience: By improving the speed, navigability and functionality of your website, you can further encourage customer interactions and purchases.

Overall, the above advantages may result in a reduced need to purchase expensive hardware and software that turns obsolete within a few years.

benefits of network optimization

How to Improve Network Performance

The ideal network optimization scheme avoids overhauling your company’s existing set of hardware and software. Instead, it uses the lowest-cost methods to ensure better data flow via uninhibited traffic, often by tweakinnetwork maintenance and upkeep best practices.

There are a few network optimization strategies to improve network performance with maintenance practices you likely already support, including:

  • Data caching for a more flexible means of data storage and retrieval.
  • Traffic shaping to maximize the speed and access to your highest-traffic network infrastructure.
  • Prioritizing SD-WAN over WAN, further improving traffic shaping and supporting the most business-critical pieces of your network. 
  • Eliminating redundant data clogging network memory.
  • Data compressing to further eliminate redundant data and encourage more efficient data packet transfers. 
  • Router buffer tuning to minimize packet loss and direct smoother data transmissions. 
  • Data protocol streamlining, which bundles data and improves quality of service (QoS) across your network applications.
  • Application delivery suites that enhance how you see and track traffic across your network and control the flow and priorities of that traffic. 
  • Deploying flow visualization analytic software for 24/7 network monitoring.

Migrating from legacy architecture to cloud-based networks is likely the only major step in optimizing your network that may require new software.

Achieve Your Network Optimization Goals With Worldwide Services

A well-oiled network is at the heart of a high-functioning organization. Without optimizing your network, your business risks issues at every point in its IT ecosystem — from poor Wi-Fi connections and congested data storage to remote employees being unable to access software to perform their work.

Leverage your resources by partnering with a premier network-management service. Worldwide Services’ Network Monitoring and Infrastructure Support suite delivers: 

  • Incident management
  • Event monitoring and management
  • Reactive circuit support
  • Service request support
  • And many more network services

Request a quote today to maximize your network while experiencing cost savings.

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What is storage architecture

What Is Storage Architecture? | May 20th, 2020

The storage architecture of your system is a critical component of data transfer and accessing vital information. It provides the foundation for data access across an enterprise. Depending on your operations and the needs of your business, specific storage architectures might be necessary to enable employees to work to their fullest potential.

So what is IT storage architecture and how does it play into the everyday tasks you need to get done? To help you understand storage optimization, we’ve outlined the details of storage architecture and what you need to know to make informed decisions about the design and maintenance of one of the most critical components of your enterprise.

What Is Network Storage Architecture?

Network storage architecture refers to the physical and conceptual organization of a network that enables data transfer between storage devices and servers. It provides the backend for most enterprise-level operations and allows users to get what they need.

The setup of a storage architecture can dictate what aspects get prioritized, such as cost, speed, scalability or security. Since different businesses have different needs, what goes into IT storage architecture can be a big factor in the success and ease-of-use of everyday operations.

The two primary types of storage systems offer similar functions but vary widely in execution. These storage types include network-attached storage (NAS) and a storage area network (SAN).

employees seeing network storage achitecture

1. Network-Attached Storage (NAS)

A NAS system connects a computer with a network to deliver file-based data to other devices. The files are usually held on several storage drives arranged in a redundant array of independent disks (RAID), which helps to improve performance and data security. This user-friendly approach appears as a network-mounted volume. Security, administration and access are relatively easy to control.

NAS is popular for smaller operations, as it allows for local and remote filesharing, data redundancy, around-the-clock access and easy upgrading. Plus, it isn’t very expensive and is quite flexible. The downside to NAS is that server upgrades may be necessary to keep up with growing demand. It can also struggle with latency for large files. For small file sizes, it wouldn’t likely be noticeable, but if you work with large files like videos, this latency can interrupt many processes and significantly slow you down.

2. Storage Area Network (SAN)

SAN creates a storage system that works with consolidated, block data. It bypasses many of the restrictions caused by TCP/IP protocols and congestion on the local area network, giving it higher access speed than a NAS system. Part of the reason for this improvement in speed involves the way files are served. NAS uses Ethernet to access the files, which are then served over an incredibly high-speed fiber channel, allowing for fast access. NAS improves accessibility and appears to users like external hard drives.

Due to its complexity, SAN is often reserved for big businesses that have the capital and the IT department to manage it. For businesses with high-demand files like video, the low latency and high speeds of SAN are a significant benefit. It also fairly distributes and prioritizes bandwidth throughout the network, great for businesses with high-speed traffic like e-commerce websites. Other bonuses of SAN include expandability and block-level access to files. The biggest downside to SAN is its cost and challenges for upkeep, hence why it typically is used by large corporations.

multi-tiered

Configurations

Within these storage systems, you can find a wide variety of setups. Different structures can influence the performance of any given storage system. The components of these setups include:

  • The front end interface: Usually connected to the access layer of the server infrastructure, this interface is what allows users to interact with the data.
  • Master nodes: A master node is the one that communicates with the compute nodes using information from outside the system. It manages the compute nodes and takes care of monitoring resources and node states. Often, these are housed in a more powerful server than the compute nodes.
  • Compute nodes: A compute node helps to run a wide variety of operations like calculations, file manipulation and rendering.
  • A consistent file system: With a parallel file system shared across the server cluster, compute nodes can access file types easily and offer better performance.
  • A high-speed fabric: Creating communication between nodes requires a fabric that offers low latency and high bandwidth. Gigabit Ethernet and Infiniband technologies are the primary options.

Below are some of the styles of architecture you may find.

1. Multi-Tiered Model

With a multi-tiered data center, HTTP-based applications make good use of separate tiers for web, application and database servers. It allows for distinct separation between the tiers, which improves security and redundancy. Security-wise, if one tier is compromised, the others are generally safe with the help of firewalls between them. As for redundancy, if one server goes down or needs maintenance, other servers in the same tier can keep things moving.

2. Clustered Architecture

In a clustered system, data stays behind a single compute node. They don’t share memory between them. The input-output (I/O) path is short and direct, and the system’s interconnect has exceedingly low latency. This simple approach is actually the one that touts the most features because of how easy it is to add on data services.

One approach to the clustered architecture model is to layer “federation models” on top of them to scale it out somewhat. This bounces the I/O around until it reaches the node that contains the data. These federated layers require additional code to redirect data, which adds latency to the entire process.

3. Tightly-Coupled Architectures

These architectures distribute data between multiple nodes, running in parallel, and use a grid of multiple high-availability controllers. They have a significant amount of inter-node communication and work with several types of operations, but the master node organizes input processing. These systems were originally designed to make I/O paths symmetric throughout the nodes and limit how much drive failure can unbalance I/O operations.

With a more complex design, a tightly-coupled architecture requires much more code. This aspect limits the availability of data services, making them rarer in the core code stack. However, the more tightly coupled a storage architecture is, the better it can predictably provide low latency. Since tight coupling improves performance, it can be difficult to add nodes and scale up, which inevitably adds complexity to the entire system and opens you up to bugs.

storage architecture

4. Loosely Coupled Architectures

This type of system does not share memory between nodes. The data is distributed among them with a significant amount of inter-node communication on writes, which can make it expensive to run when you look at cycles. The data transmitted is transactional. Sometimes, low latency gets hidden in write locations that are themselves low-latency, like SSDs or NVRAM, but there is still going to be more movement in a loosely-coupled architecture, creating extra I/Os.

Similar to the tightly-coupled architecture, this one can also follow a “federation” pattern and scale out. Usually, it entails grouping nodes into subgroups with special nodes called mappers.

This architecture is relatively simple to use and good for distributed reads where data can be in multiple places. Since the data is in more than one spot, multiple nodes can hold it and speed up access. This factor makes this architecture particularly suited for server and storage software as well as hyper-convergence on transactional workloads.

Just as each node doesn’t share memory, they also don’t share code, which stands separate from other nodes. This design has a few effects. If the data is heavily distributed on writes, you’ll see higher latency and less efficiency in I/O operations per second (IOPS). If you have less distribution, you might get lower latency, but you won’t see as much parallelism on reading as you would otherwise. Finally, the loosely coupled architecture can offer all three options — low write latency, high parallelism and high scaling — if the data is sub-stratified and you don’t write a large number of copies.

5. Distributed Architectures

While it may look similar to a loosely coupled architecture, this approach works with non-transactional data. It does not share memory between the nodes, and data is distributed across them. The data gets chunked up on one node and occasionally distributed as a measure of security. This type of system uses object and non-POSIX filesystems.

This type of architecture is less common than many others but used by extremely large enterprises, as it works easily with petabytes of storage. Its parallel processing model and speed make it a great fit for search engines. It is incredibly scalable due to its chunking methods and its independence from transactional data. Due to its simplicity, a distributed, non-shared architecture is usually software-only and lacks any dependency on hardware.

employee working on storage hardware

What Are the Elements of Storage Architecture?

Designing a storage architecture is often a balance of different features. Improve one aspect, and you may worsen another. You’ll have to identify what features are most critical for your type of work and how you can most effectively get the most out of them. You’ll also need to balance the cost and the needs of the organization. Here are some of the most prevalent aspects of developing storage architecture.

elements of storage architecture

1. Data Pattern

Depending on the type of work you do, you may have a random or sequential pattern of I/O requests. Which type of pattern you work with most will affect the way that the components of the disk physically reach the area that contains the data.

  • Random: In a random pattern, the data is written and read at various locations on the disk platter, which can influence the effectiveness of a RAID system. The controller cache uses patterns to predict the data blocks it will need to access next for reading or writing. If the data is random, there is no pattern for it to work from. Another issue with a random pattern is the increase in seek time. With data spread out across data blocks, the disk head needs to move each time a piece of information is requested. The arm and disk head physically have to move there, which can add to the seek time and impact performance.
  • Sequential: The sequential pattern works, as you would imagine, in an ordered fashion. It is more structured and provides predictable data access. With this kind of layout, the RAID controller can more accurately guess which data blocks will need to be accessed next and cache that information. It boosts performance and keeps the arm from moving around as much. These sequential applications are usually built with throughput in mind. You’ll see sequential patterns with large filetypes, like video and backups, where they are written to the drive in continuous blocks.

In random workloads, the performance of the disk has to do with the spin speed and time it takes to access the data. As the disk moves faster, it offers more IOPS. In sequential operations, all three major disk types — SATA, SAS and SSD — offer similar performance levels. In general, though, sequential patterns often occur with large or streaming media files, which are best suited to SATA drives. Random patterns happen with small files or inconsistent storage requests, like those on virtual desktops. SAS and SSD are usually the best options for random patterns.

As far as spinning speeds and access times go, here’s how the drives compare.

  • SATA: SATA drives have relatively large disk platters that can struggle with random workloads due to their slow speed. The large platter size can cause longer seek times.
  • SAS: These drives have smaller platters with faster speeds. They can cut the seek time down significantly.
  • SSD: The SSD drive is excellent for extremely high-performance workloads. It has no moving parts, so seek times are almost nonexistent.

2. Layers

In data center storage architecture, you’ll typically see several layers of hardware that serve separate functions. These layers typically include the:

  • Core layer: This first layer creates the high-speed packet switching necessary for data transfer. It connects to many aggregation modules and uses a redundant design.
  • Aggregation layer: The aggregation layer is the place where traffic flows through and encounters services like a firewall,  network analysis, intrusion detection and more.
  • Access layer: This layer is where the servers and network physically link up. It involves switches, cabling and adapters to get everything connected and allow users to access the data.

3. Performance vs. Capacity

Disk drive capabilities are always changing. Just think about how expensive a 1 terabyte (TB) hard drive was only five years ago, and how the first 1 megabyte (MB) hard drive cost $1 million. Disk capacity used to be so low that SAN systems didn’t have to worry about the number of disks not creating enough IOPS per gigabyte (GB) — they had plenty. Nowadays, SATA drives and SAS drives can offer similar capacities, with the SATA drive using significantly fewer disks. Fewer disks reduce the number of IOPS generated per GB.

If your work involves a lot of random I/O interactions or extreme demand, using SATA disks can quickly cause your IOPS to bottleneck before you reach capacity. One option here is to front the disks with a solid-state cache, which can greatly improve random I/O performance.

4. RAID Considerations

If using a RAID system, you’ll have one more factor to think about: the parity penalty. This term refers to the performance cost of protecting data with RAID and only affects writes. If your work is write-sensitive, the parity penalty may affect you more since RAID is less stable when it comes to write tasks. Different levels of RAID protection can also affect the level of overhead.

Determining the level of overhead is a complex calculation, one that you can figure out with some information about your prospective system.

Remember that some drive types can benefit from different configurations. An SSD, for instance, can have a RAID1+0 configuration for better performance, while a SATA drive with a RAID6 configuration offers extra security during rebuilds and high capacity.

How Is Storage Architecture Designed?

Designing storage architecture asks us to look closely at the requirements set forth by the business and the environment. It probably goes without saying, but meetings and discussions will help determine your needs. You’ll also want to enlist professional services to help with the specifics and building the architecture itself.

Once you determine what your data pattern looks like, you can start to review aspects like:

  • Capacity needs
  • Throughput
  • IOPS
  • Additional functions, like replication or snapshots

If you can’t get data on these aspects, looking closely at your operating system and applications can get you started. If you find yourself with a random data pattern, try to balance capacity with IOPS requirements. For sequential workloads, prioritize capacity and throughput. Your MB per second (MB/s) ratings for sequential data will usually exceed requirements.

designing a storage structure

Tips for Designing a Storage Architecture

Of course, we can’t put everything you need to know about storage architecture in one article, but here are a few more of our tips to help you create the ideal storage structure without too much of a headache.

  • Evaluate cost from the outset: Keeping cost in mind as you design from the ground up allows you to make realistic decisions that will work in the long term. You wouldn’t want to end up with an architecture that needs to be reorganized right away because upkeep is too expensive or it doesn’t meet the company’s needs. Be realistic about the costs of a storage architecture so it fits within the business budget.
  • Find areas where you can compromise: You won’t be able to prioritize everything. In many instances, focusing on one aspect will hurt the quality of another. A high-performance system will be costly and could be less scalable. A scalable system might require more skilled administration and could lose speed. Talk with stakeholders about what aspects are necessary for the system and why so you can evaluate possible trade-offs with business needs in mind.
  • Work in phases: Your first draft is not going to be the same as the final. As you work through the project, you will encounter specific challenges and learn more about the technical details of your system. Try not to lock yourself into a plan and allow the architecture to change organically as you uncover more information.
  • Identify your needs first: While it may be tempting to dive right into the specific components that you want to use, identifying more abstract requirements is an excellent way to start. Think about the state of your data, what formats you’ll be working with and how you want it to communicate with the server. Try to develop as much information about the required tasks as you can. This approach allows you to work your way down the chain and find solutions that match the needs of more than one operation.

Work With an IT Expert

As you’ve probably gathered, an enterprise’s storage architecture is a complicated piece of technology. And it’s too foundational to try to piece together if you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s where IT experts come in.

Here at Worldwide Services, we know data, and we know businesses. Our team of professionals can design software architecture from the ground up with your company’s needs as their top priority. Whether you need a system that focuses on speed, scalability or something else, we can help. We can also provide maintenance for an existing storage architecture. To learn more about our services, reach out to us today.

work with an IT expert

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