Information Technology (IT) downtime is a common affliction in every industry, affecting businesses of all sizes. Downtime is frustrating and expensive. For the average auto dealership, the estimated cost of IT downtime every year is more than $200,000. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
IT downtime can be prevented. If your dealership struggles with computer problems, server crashes and Internet outages on a regular basis, it may be time to assess your infrastructure and implement preventive measures that will keep your network humming and employees productive.
Here are the two most common causes of IT downtime and tips on how to avoid them:
- Slow Internet
Problems with the Internet are due to one of two reasons. Either your dealership doesn’t have enough Internet bandwidth, which can cause extreme slowdowns, or you don’t have adequate resiliency, meaning Internet service with more than one carrier.
“Preventing IT downtime can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost productivity and can prevent a lot of employee frustration.”
For the vast majority of dealerships, Internet services touted as appropriate for “small business,” are no longer adequate. In recent years there has been a huge growth in Wi-Fi requirements and in the usage of cloud-hosted applications.
Dealerships should ensure they have “enterprise-level” Internet service, typically provided by fiber optics. In the past year or two, prices for fiber optics Internet service have been greatly reduced due to increased competition. If you haven’t looked into it lately, try again–you may be surprised how affordable it is.
Sometimes the Internet will go down due to a denial of service attack by hackers or because a line is cut somewhere due to construction. If this happens the Internet traffic may be down for days. The only way to prevent downtime associated with this type of event is to have Internet service with more than one carrier. Typically I recommend enterprise-level fiber optics service with one carrier and two T1 and/or cable Internet connections with another carrier.
- Hardware Failure
Hardware failure includes computer and server crashes, or failures in networking equipment such as routers and switches. Failures can bring productivity to a halt. If a server crashes, it can take a week or more to get a new one installed and restore all the data from backups. Common causes for hardware failure include:
One of the most common reasons for hardware failure is power surges or sudden loss of power. Fluctuations in electricity can severely shorten the lifespan of computers, servers, routers and switches.
Surge protectors and power strips offer some protection against power surges, or an increase in power (with the exception of lightning strikes). But surge protectors don’t offer any protection against sudden drops in voltage, brownouts, blackouts, and other power supply issues.
To protect hardware I highly recommend an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) unit. UPS units regulate power supply to your network and equipment at all times. They also contain a backup battery that will continue to provide power even when the power goes completely out, preventing damage to equipment and giving employees plenty of time to shut down equipment properly. Backup battery power ranges anywhere from a few minutes to a hour or more depending on the size of the unit.
Another primary cause of hardware failure is the aging of equipment. Some people believe there’s nothing wrong with using the same old computer until it’s dead. The problem is that leading up to its death throes, there will be a long period where glitches, crashes and other problems will interfere with employee productivity.
You can tell if your PC needs to be replaced when it starts slowing down. Symptoms include taking forever to boot up, inability to open up a lot of tabs or windows at one time, or typing a full sentence before a single word pops up on the screen. Also if a PC’s fan starts getting louder like it’s overheating, and/or the PC makes strange clicking and grinding noises, it’s a good idea to replace ASAP before it crashes.
It’s time to replace routers if your employees are having problems sending and receiving emails, websites won’t load or load slowly, or employees are having problems playing videos. It’s important to note that these issues can also be caused by slow Internet service, so if you are having these problems and your Internet provider is assuring that your speed and bandwidth are fine, then the culprit is probably your router(s).
To prevent hardware failures replace your computers, servers and networking equipment on a regular basis. Hardware is manufactured with planned obsolescence in mind, and as it ages has a negative impact on productivity.
Lifespan of Equipment Equipment Replace Every Computers/PCs 4 years Servers 3 to 4 years Routers 4 to 5 years Switches 4 to 5 years
Heat and Humidity
Another leading cause of hardware failure is excess heat or humidity. To prevent this type of failure, store equipment in racks with appropriate spacing between the shelves. Keep cables neat and organized. Be sure that your server room has air conditioning and consider installing humidity controls if you live in a humid climate.
Someone once said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventing IT downtime can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost productivity and can prevent a lot of employee frustration. All it takes is awareness and a bit of planning and preparation.
Author: Erik Nachbahr
Erik Nachbahr founded Helion in 1997 with the goal of bringing strong information technology strategies and leadership to auto dealerships. That vision has guided Helion with a focus on outstanding service and innovative, client centric solutions. Nachbahr believes that a strong information technology strategy centers on improving the efficiency of the business it serves while controlling costs. Nachbahr holds a B.A. from Loyola University Maryland, an A.A. from Baltimore International Culinary College and industry certifications from Microsoft and Cisco. In his current role as president and CEO of Helion, he works as chief information officer for a client base with billions of dollars in annual revenue.