With the ever-changing digital landscape, IT maintenance is a major challenge for many businesses. The most common issues that can affect the performance of your business IT operations include hardware, software, and data issues. These problems can have a significant negative impact on your business if they are not handled promptly. What are the Top 5 IT maintenance problems facing businesses today? In this article, we’ll look at what they are and what you can do about them.
1). Forced Obsolescence & Unnecessary Upgrades: The Problem of Why.
OEMs are in the business of selling new hardware. When they EOL/EOS a product they try to force your hand into purchasing new hardware. There is no reason for you to take a perfectly functioning piece of hardware out of your network just because the OEM will no longer support it. We have 30+ years of failure rate data that provides insights into how long a specific piece of equipment should last. One truth is recurring, it is going to last longer than the OEM wants you to believe.
2). Increased Costs: The Problem of How Much.
According to IT analysts, 80% of total IT costs occur after the initial purchase. This is mainly due to high maintenance costs foisted on businesses by the OEMs. It is not uncommon for the OEMs to increase annual hardware maintenance costs by 15% per year for the first five years of purchase. After those 5 years the percentage can be whatever they see fit – even up to a 100% increase for products that have become end-of-life. WWS delivers 50-80% savings over OEM support, increases operational efficiencies and simplifies your maintenance program.
3). Uptime/All the Time: The Problem of Now.
Downtime from network or server issues can have huge negative impacts on a company’s bottom line and reputation. Maintaining service availability percentages with 99.99% availability can be achieved following critical steps. Purchasing equipment that is the easiest to repair and replace is a key step, coupled with load balancing, failover and redundancy. WWS has a truly global approach to Managed IT Services. Our expertise in logistics and strategic stocking depots will ensure your business maintains its operational functionality around the globe.
4). Complexity to Manage: The Problem of More.
Keeping track of multiple service contracts across a multitude of vendors is not easy. When a problem or support issue is identified, there can be extreme confusion working through multiple vendors and equipment suppliers to fix the problem. Conflicting Service Level Agreements (SLAs) slow down fixes and ultimately the end users pay the price.
5). Geographically Complexity: The Problem of Where.
Our global reach extends to 100 countries around the world. We have built a comprehensive understanding of global supply chain management to include complex logistical support, transportation visibility and disaster planning. Our agile services team has the flexibility to help you rapidly scale globally.
One of the brutal realities of IT is the fact that hardware is phased out relatively quickly within the industry. No matter how much time and effort you put into the selection or how well the product works for you, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) may choose to discontinue production and sale of that hardware within three to five years of release. This discontinuation date is called End of Life or EoL. While this short lifespan is typical to the OEM, it often doesn’t meet the needs or desires of businesses using the hardware — many companies will choose to continue using their hardware after the manufacturer has ceased production.
However, the next step of the hardware lifecycle is End of Service Life, or EoSL, a much more final cessation of service from the OEM. Understanding what EoSL is and how to prepare for it will help your business better understand the equipment lifecycle and make more informed decisions regarding your IT hardware.
What Is EoSL?
End of Service Life is the final phase of a product’s lifecycle that usually comes six to 12 years after the product is released. At this point, the manufacturer no longer produces or sells the hardware, and it is ceasing any maintenance and support services, including firmware updates. If the provider offers any continued support for the hardware, it likely comes at a significantly increased cost and will probably be temporary.
So why does the manufacturer declare an EoSL date? Mostly, the reason is to push progress. EoSL dates come after a piece of hardware has been out for a long time, and the manufacturer has new technologies and product lines to sell. Setting an EoSL date creates a cutoff of service that pushes customers to purchase new products and decreases the number of hardware products OEM support staff need to be able to service regularly. While these practices are frustrating for users, they’re what OEMs need to do to remain profitable.
Some issues that arise when a product reaches EoSL include the following:
Decreased hardware performance
Software compatibility issues
Security weaknesses, though patches may still come through or be available from other sources
Lower operating efficiency
Because of these issues, it’s important to know what the EoSL date is for your hardware and where your equipment is in the IT life cycle. While your business can use End of Service Life hardware best practices to extend the use of your hardware, you should start looking and budgeting for new products once your hardware hits its EoSL date. Technology advances quickly, and using outdated hardware leaves your business open to vulnerabilities and prevents you from taking advantage of the latest IT capabilities.
EoSL vs. EoL
One of the common questions that comes up when discussing product lifecycles is how EoL differs from EoSL. Essentially, the primary difference is in service offerings. They are defined in more detail below:
EoL: End of Life indicates that the manufacturer has declared the end of production for that hardware. After the EoL date, the OEM stops producing, marketing, selling and refurbishing that product. However, the OEM will continue providing maintenance services for existing equipment. The EoL for hardware generally comes three to six years after product release.
EoSL: End of Service Life is when the manufacturer will cease support altogether for a product line. As of the EoSL date, the OEM will not offer any more maintenance or support. In rare cases, minimal support will continue at a significantly increased price. The EoSL usually comes six to 12 years after product release.
Besides the service aspect, EoL and EoSL are relatively close in meaning. The difference in date, however, varies, often based on the popularity of the product and the availability of replacement parts. Sometimes EoSL follows EoL very closely, especially for less popular products or hardware with more limited releases and fewer replacement parts. However, the difference in EoSL may be longer if the product was especially popular or more widely produced, as replacement parts will be more abundant for these product lines. Generally speaking, however, EoSL will follow EoL by one to six years.
What Happens When a System Reaches EoSL?
While companies can still operate relatively the same after their hardware has reached EoL, many things change after the EoSL date. The manufacturer will no longer support the product, which means the following for your company:
Exorbitant support rates: OEMs will often increase their support rates after they’ve announced EoL on a product line, but they’ll certainly increase their rates once a product reaches the EoSL date — often, they’ll end service entirely. OEMs don’t make money on maintenance — they make money on product sales — so it is more profitable for them to charge exorbitant prices for service on old products and encourage users to upgrade. If the OEM ceases service entirely, customers using the product will have to turn to expensive repair services.
Diminished part supplies: New part supplies tend to diminish after production stops. During the two or three years your product is under warranty, the OEM as plenty of access to new parts and components. However, after production stops, OEMs do not have access to certified quality parts. While more refurbished parts tend to hit the secondhand market after a product reaches EoL and companies start to upgrade, it’s not profitable for OEMs to search for and certify these parts.
Outdated firmware: After EoL, the OEM typically stops updating the firmware for that product. In the rare event that the OEM continues updating the firmware, they will certainly stop after the EoSL date. This means that users will have to install security patches themselves instead of relying on the OEM.
After the EoSL date, OEMs effectively limit the options for companies still using the product. The choice to upgrade is simple for those prepared to make the switch, but many companies aren’t fully ready for EoSL. Maybe their hardware is working perfectly well for them at the moment, or they haven’t had enough time to find and test a new product that meets all their needs. Those customers who aren’t ready to upgrade often feel backed into a corner — either they need to upgrade before they need or want to or pay high fees for OEM services or internally-facilitated repairs. However, your company has options if you prepare for EoSL properly.
How to Prepare for EoSL
When your OEM announces what the EoSL date is for your hardware, start preparations immediately. Below are some most basic steps and tips for End of Service Life preparation:
Get the details: Read the EoSL announcement thoroughly and collect any essential details such as what the EoSL date is and if any services will be available after that date. Also, be sure to check if any related products are nearing their EoL or EoSL that may also be in your IT equipment.
Learn the equipment: Learn more about the equipment that is reaching EoSL. What maintenance issues has your company encountered with it in the past? What are the common repair needs for this piece of equipment? How expensive are those repairs?
Look for maintenance options: If you choose to keep your equipment past the EoSL date, you need to handle maintenance. You can handle maintenance internally with one or more trained specialists in your IT department, or you can hire a third party. Third-party maintenance (TPM) can be an affordable solution to this problem, offering comprehensive maintenance at a lower cost than an internal specialist or OEM.
These steps can help extend the life of your hardware long past the EoSL date. However, keep in mind that you will eventually need to upgrade. Hardware doesn’t last forever, and refusing to upgrade means you may not be taking advantage of the most recent advancements in IT capabilities. Be sure to weigh the cost and benefit of upgrading versus sticking with your old hardware regularly, and start doing research and testing for upgrades as soon as your company is ready.
Work With a Third-Party Maintenance Provider
If your company isn’t ready to upgrade and wants to extend the life of your EoSL hardware, TPM providers offer a cost-effective solution. TPM services provide support, expert advice and repair services to help maintain your equipment long after the OEM stops offering support. They can even replace parts using trusted secondhand channels, so you can keep your equipment for as long as you need it. By working with a TPM, your company gains the flexibility it needs to make upgrades on your schedule, not when your OEM thinks you should.
Some of the specific benefits of working with a TPM provider include the following:
Extended hardware lifespan: Even though the manufacturer has declared a product’s EoSL, that doesn’t make the equipment useless. If your hardware is well-maintained, your company can keep using it for as long as you need it. TPM services can help with maintenance and repair to extend your hardware’s lifespan to meet your needs.
Timeline flexibility: Manufacturer EoSL dates don’t always come at a convenient time. Maybe the EoSL date happens when your company doesn’t have the extra capital to invest in upgrades or during a busy season when an upgrade would disrupt your operations. Perhaps your company has narrowed down your upgrade options but won’t have completed testing by the EoSL date. No matter what is going on with your company, your schedule shouldn’t be dictated by the manufacturer. Working with a TPM ensures that your equipment is maintained past the EoSL date and until your company is fully ready for an upgrade.
High-quality parts: If your company is doing repairs internally, you may not have access to high-quality replacement parts. TPM services work with OEMs and trusted manufacturers and refurbishment specialists to get the parts you need for a quality repair.
Experienced repair specialists: TPM specialists are experts in their field with extensive experience with a range of products. They have the resources and equipment to get the repair done, as well as the knowledge to do it right.
Customer-specific attention: OEMs specialize in equipment, but TPMS specialize in service. TPM specialists focus on providing comprehensive and quick repair services for their clients, minimizing downtime while servicing a wider range of products. Many TPM programs even allow you to customize your service model so you only pay for what you need.
Reduced costs: TPM companies are significantly less expensive to work with than a post-EoL OEM service team. According to a 2016 Gartner report, TPMs save customers an average of 60% compared to OEM support pricing, with savings ranging from 50% to 95% the OEM price. With specialized skills and faster turnarounds, TPM companies can provide cost-effective results while helping you save money on equipment.
These benefits are attractive to any company facing an EoL or EoSL date, but be sure to work with the right TPM provider. There are two types of TPMs — traditional TPM and secondary hardware suppliers. Traditional TPM companies are independent support contractors that specialize in maintenance. Secondary hardware suppliers, on the other hand, offer support as well as hardware resales. Be sure to look into a TPM’s focus and ensure that it aligns with your goals before working with them.
Partner With Worldwide Services
When it comes to EoSL management, you need a TPM company you can trust. Whether you’re looking for online technical support or a comprehensive maintenance solution, Worldwide Services can help.
Worldwide Services provides comprehensive TPM support with the NetGuard program. NetGuard offers support for over 200 current and legacy lines of OEM products from a range of brands from large to small. With our services, you retain full control over your equipment and data while our experts provide 24/7 support access. Best of all, with NetGuard, you an save up to 50% on maintenance costs. With our established presence in the industry and a proven track record, you can rely on NetGuard to meet all your needs for third-party management.
Protect your hardware investment and save money with NetGuard’s comprehensive TPM solution. For more information on NetGuard and how Worldwide Services can benefit your company, contact us today.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
“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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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
Individual page element load times
First byte download 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.