Archive for Third Party Maintenance

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.

Work with a network expert

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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EoL vs. EoSL | April 10th, 2020

Imagine if you got a message from the manufacturer of your hardware saying they were discontinuing support for one of the most vital parts of your company. That would be a frustrating message to hear, and one that may send you scrambling for a solution. You might think you have to buy the latest hardware to continue receiving support. Or, you may think you’ll be stuck struggling with old, outdated equipment until you can convince higher-ups to spend money on new hardware. Fortunately, these aren’t your only options.

If you get a notice like this from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), it typically means the equipment is entering one of two stages: End of Life (EoL) or End of Service Life (EoSL). So how is EoL different than EoSL? Keep reading to find out what these terms mean and how a third-party maintenance (TPM) solution can help you minimize their effects.

What Is EoL?

As the term suggests, an EoL product is at its End of Life. This typically means the manufacturer will not be producing any more of the item. The OEM might have a new generation coming up or a completely different product they want to focus on, so halting production allows them to refocus funds toward new developments. Usually, the OEM will still offer maintenance and post-warranty support on EoL products. The firmware is typically stable by this point, so you probably won’t have any updates or patches come through.

If your product has reached its EoL, it may be a good time to put new hardware on your radar. You can typically still get a few more years out of it — especially with the help of TPM — but eventually, you will need to get something new. Since substantial hardware updates often require significant capital, make sure the decision-makers know about potential replacement costs in the upcoming years. Advance notice may make the transition more manageable when you do need to purchase new hardware.

Another reason to stay on top of the life cycle of your equipment is to maximize resale value. For instance, you might have a product that currently has excellent resale value. If the OEM announces it is going EoL, it quickly loses value when the manufacturer stops offering the product, accessories and support. By staying up-to-date with EoL status announcements, you can more appropriately gauge and plan for resale.

What Is EoSL?

In looking at End of Life vs. End of Service Life, support is the biggest differentiating factor. The EoSL label is a little more final than EoL. At this stage, the OEM stops selling the product and won’t offer any more maintenance or support. If they do support the hardware in some way, they may charge you greatly for the service. You also won’t see firmware updates or patches for the product.

By this point, a piece of hardware has likely been out for a while, and the OEM might be trying to push a new technology or product line. Like with EoL products, you’ll want to keep new hardware in your sights. You can maximize your use for a while after the EoSL designation, but the product will probably still be on its way out the door. Technology advances quickly and, depending on the hardware, yours might become outdated rapidly.

Some issues that can pop up when a product reaches EoSL without you noticing include the following:

  • Decreased performance
  • Software compatibility issues
  • Security weaknesses, though patches may still come through or be available through other sources
  • Lower operating efficiency

Always be aware which stage of the IT life cycle your equipment is in so you can budget efficiently. In addition to saving you time and money, appropriately managing your EoSL equipment can be more convenient. For instance, updating your servers at the wrong time, like your busiest month, could be a real pain — slowing productivity and adding stress to the workday. It requires downtime, investment and change. TPM can help you manage your hardware until you’re ready to switch.

network hardware

What Is the Difference Between EoL and EoSL?

One of the main differences between EoL and EoSL products is service offerings. While the OEM may still offer support for EoL products, EoSL products no longer receive support. You’ll have to go through TPM or another service provider for any kind of assistance since the OEM has cut EoSL products off completely.

Aside from the maintenance aspect, the terms “End of Life” and “End of Service Life” are relatively close in meaning. Both signal the OEM cutting ties with the product and reducing or eliminating support. Usually, they do this to push marketing and development efforts for a new product. Plus, by eliminating or reducing support on the old product, they can often convince companies to upgrade before it is really necessary.

OEMs aren’t service companies. They make a profit by turning around new products and generating upgrades. OEMs charge a high amount for EoL services for a few reasons:

  • Their business model is not intended for long-term service. The high prices of their policy keep things profitable for them. Remember, they generally want to focus on creating and selling products, not servicing existing ones.
  • Their part supply diminishes after production stops. As OEMs run out of refurbished parts, they may have trouble procuring necessary components. During your initial warranty phase, which is usually two or three years after the purchase date, manufacturers have plenty of access to these components and often supply you with new ones as needed. The further your product gets from the EoL date, the harder and more expensive it is to get certified, quality parts.

What Can Your Organization Do With EoL or EoSL Equipment?

You might feel backed into a corner if your products are deemed EoL or EoSL. It may seem like you have to get a new product if you want to continue getting any support, which means spending money and losing the value of the old hardware. If you keep your equipment, you’ll have to proceed without OEM support. But how will you deal with technical difficulties or breakdowns? And how can you be confident that your hardware will work properly as new software, technology and security concerns arise?

In some cases, the OEM might offer you a “solution” with an exorbitant price for continued services. These prices may rise over time as the OEM expands further and further away from your product. Another “solution” you may try to adopt is to keep the hardware but attempt to handle maintenance and repairs on your own. That service often requires a higher level of expertise, and it also costs you money in terms of your IT department. You may need to hire someone to do that work and may struggle to find the right parts. For the same price, there are other options available that may fit your business better.

Worldwide Services employee working on hardware

Third-Party Maintenance (TPM) Solutions

A TPM company can step in when the OEM support ends and keep your hardware running smoothly for years after its EoL or EoSL. Just because manufacturers like Cisco and HP have stopped supporting a piece of hardware, doesn’t mean the hardware can’t continue to support your business.

You might not be ready for a sizable new purchase, especially if your existing equipment is working just fine. You can significantly extend the life of your EoL or EoSL hardware by looking to TPM. A TPM service can step in and perform repairs or fixes as needed long after the OEM’s support ends.

TPM companies typically have access to OEM parts through trusted channels or the OEMs themselves. They can provide expert service at the same or higher level of care as the OEM, but at a much lower cost. TPM solutions often exceed the original service level agreement, which can allow you to free up capital and use your hardware as you see fit.

Some of the benefits of working with TPM programs include the following.

1. Extended Hardware Lifespan

When a manufacturer stops offering support for a product, the equipment is not suddenly useless. It still maintains much of its original value, and if the product works for your company, it is convenient to keep using it. As long as there aren’t any glaring issues with the hardware or problems with its place in your company’s infrastructure, you can stretch your initial investment and keep the product working longer with TPM.

2. Sticking to Your Own Schedule

Maybe your hardware is going to reach its EoSL at a time when your company doesn’t have much extra capital to spend on upgrades. Or maybe it will happen during your busy season when a hardware upgrade might be too disruptive. Regardless of when it happens, you shouldn’t have to alter your schedule because of the manufacturer.

You have your own business to run and your schedule to balance. Plus, you don’t want to be rushed into a hasty decision because you feel like you need new hardware. By continuing to use your existing equipment with the help of TPM, you can choose to upgrade when you’re ready. You can prepare for the transition and have your finances in order before purchasing new equipment.

3. High-Quality Repairs

If you’re working on hardware yourself, you may not have easy access to OEM parts and may have to turn to less-than-trustworthy manufacturers to get what you need. Working with TPM entails more access to trusted parts that will work with your equipment. Plus, the technicians performing the repairs are experts in the field and may be more familiar with the equipment than in-house techs.

4. Lower Costs

Avoid the sky-high prices for post-EoL OEM services by working with a TPM company. With much lower prices and a similar skill set, they can get the job done without charging a premium.

In addition to savings, the scope of work included with TPM may be more expansive or personalized than what is offered by your OEM. You also get to push back the cost of new equipment. While an upgrade will still be necessary at some point, TPM can help keep it at bay.

5. Attention to Your Needs

While an OEM specializes in their equipment, TPM programs can focus more on the needs of your company. They might be able to perform a repair in a way that creates as little downtime as possible or offer more encompassing services that can provide a better deal. Some TPM options, like Worldwide Services, let you purchase only the services you need. You can even create a hybrid model with elements of OEM and TPM support if that’s what fits your business.

network hardware data center

What to Look for in a TPM Program

TPM is an excellent solution for EoL or EoSL hardware that you’re not ready to part with. It can help you extend the value of these tools and ensure you get to upgrade whenever you’re ready — not when your OEM says you should.

One factor to keep in mind when selecting TPM is the type of organization it is. According to Gartner, you can find two kinds of TPM:

  • Traditional TPM: Traditional TPM companies are independent support contractors that make most of their money from annual support contracts. They are typically more established and have investment funding.
  • Secondary hardware suppliers: Some TPM companies make most of their money from the resale of hardware. Many in this category started as resellers before offering TPM, so they have typically been around for a shorter time.

Traditional TPM companies tend to have the advantage of more experience and a devoted maintenance focus.

Whether you only need online technical support or you want a comprehensive maintenance solution, Worldwide Services can help. Our experts work to provide 24/7 access to assistance that fits your business needs. Our NetGuard program offers TPM support for over 200 current and legacy lines of OEM products from major manufacturers like Cisco and HP as well as lesser-known brands.

Partner With Worldwide Services

When it comes to maintaining EoL products, you need a company you can trust. We allow you to retain full control over your equipment, so all your sensitive data stays where you want it. Plus, you can save up to 50% on maintenance costs when implementing NetGuard. Paired with an established presence in the industry and our proven track record, NetGuard is a trustworthy, reliable option.

Our TPM solution can help protect your hardware investment and save you money. For more information on how Worldwide Services can benefit your company, contact us today.

Worldwide Services as a TPM

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Do I Need a Cisco Catalyst 9000? | March 13th, 2020

Cisco engineers designed the Catalyst 9000 for use in the modern digital era. With the 9000 models, users can connect to virtually any network, including cloud, mobile and wireless. These switches range in size and power with models designed to fit any need.

As technology improves, the right tools for connecting must advance with it. Companies looking for fast and secure connections are often encouraged to upgrade to Cisco Catalyst 9000, but it is not necessarily required. Business is about the bottom line. Companies must find the right balance between cost and performance when improving a system.

What Is Cisco Catalyst 9000?

The Cisco Catalyst family of switches offers solutions for businesses and organizations of any size. Demands on networks are growing each year. The right equipment will be necessary to process incoming data, maintain security and ensure connectivity. Cisco 9000 switches include:

  • Security: Cisco uses enhanced-threat-analysis (ETA) to identify cyber threats. Advanced analytics identify risks to your network, including threats hidden in encrypted traffic. Additionally, 9000-series switches allow users to host private cloud networks, limiting exposure to hackers.
  • Connectivity: The 9000 is for the internet of today and the network of tomorrow. Cisco designed the 9000 with cloud and mobile connectivity as a top priority with the highest UPoE available. These switches are created to withstand data usage predictions well into the future.
  • Access: Improve both yours and the user experience with constant connectivity. Cisco 9000 switches are always on, ensuring the latest updates are consistently applied and users enjoy constant connectivity.
  • Programmability: Cisco Catalyst 9000 switches include built-in programmable UADP ASIC. Switches also come equipped with x86 CPU with OPEN IOS-XE installed. Simplify operations with blue beacon technology and built-in RFID capabilities.
  • Design: Discover, configure and provision devices across your network in a fraction of the time. Cisco DNA and SD-Acess allow for better network management with reduced risk to vulnerabilities. Automate more tasks for greater efficiency with less room for error.

Pros and Cons of Cisco Catalyst 9000 Switches

If you’re thinking of upgrading your network capabilities, you have a lot of options. Cisco 9000-series switches do offer some performance benefits, however, there are other options are available. These other solutions can offer similar performance at a much lower cost. Business resources, network demands and future planning can all affect your decision to act.

Before moving to a Catalyst switch, it’s essential to explore both the advantages and disadvantages of making the change. Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of Cisco Catalyst 9000 switches:

Pros

  • Density: Up to twice the density of comparable switches
  • Safety: Better security features for cyber threat reduction
  • Analytics: Intelligent analytics for better network management
  • Support: Ongoing training and technical assistance from Cisco

Cons

  • Licensing: Subscription-based software licensing means you are limited
  • Price: Catalyst 9000 switch pricing often exceeds business resources
  • Vendor Lock-In: Reduces your flexibility and increases long-term costs

Though there are some benefits of moving to the latest option from Cisco, there are disadvantages that could affect you if you were to choose that option. Fortunately for your organization, there are Cisco Catalyst 9000 alternatives that can provide comparable performance without the drawbacks.

What Is Your Alternative?

Worldwide Services has switching solutions to fit your needs and your budget. Finding the right IT solutions for your organization starts with a better understanding of your network. We will perform a complete walkthrough of your system to identify areas for improvement, helping your business maintain a competitive edge.

At Worldwide Services, we work with businesses and organizations of all sizes. Get more information on Cisco switches, comparable products, or how we can help optimize your network. Contact Worldwide Services today at 855-894-6400 or send us a message online.

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