We present, for your consideration, a small business owner. She has a small boutique store that sells fashionable yoga clothes for expecting mothers and also, let’s say, muffins. It’s doing very well. One day, she wakes up, heads to the office, and much to her consternation and, let’s be frank, surprise, the store is gone. I don’t mean her inventory has been stolen or that the store has been ravaged by a fire; the building is gone. The upscale cupcake shop to her right and the bike (fixie only) repair shop to her left are still there. Her store, though, is completely gone. As her customers are arriving, they are just milling about, seeing that there isn’t a store to get into, and start to drift off to take their business elsewhere. They were loyal customers, but only to a point. Even though her store happily reappeared a few days later, completely intact, her reputation had been done damage. If she can’t even keep her store on the temporal plane, who knows what can go wrong with the muffins?
Obviously, this sort of thing rarely, if ever, happens in real life, but you can have the same kind of business-crippling disaster if your server goes down and you experience network failure. Even businesses that aren’t run online require a network to interact with customers, receive, ship, and track orders, and to inform the general public about their business. You use it for documentation, internal emails, and probably most of your communication. Your staff uses the server for just about everything. If it goes down, it can take your business with it for a few days, and for a small business, that can be an eternity. Here’s what can happen, and the best ways to prevent it.
The Causes and Costs of Network Failure
Today’s business environment is predicated on the idea of uninterrupted network continuity, but in the same way that the automotive environment is built on the idea of cars not needing work. We know that isn’t the case. There are many who say that when it comes to network failure, it isn’t a matter of if, but when. There are a few things that can cause this.
- DDoS Attacks. Direct Denial of Service attacks are on the rise.These occur when hackers flood your system and make it unavailable for the general public. This won’t impact your internal communications, but will make the outward-facing side of your business inaccessible to the public. A 2014 study showed that DDoS attacks can cost businesses up to $100,000 per hour. What’s worse, hackers often use a DDoS attack as a smokescreen to distract IT staff while they break into a system to implant malware and steal data.
- Hackers going after customer and business data.. A lot of small businesses think that while they may be vulnerable, they aren’t a target for hackers. It’s the same theory that if you have a cheap car it isn’t at risk of being stolen when there is a Benz nearby. That’s a comforting fiction: hacking into and getting customer information from a dozen small businesses with bad security is cheaper and easier than breaking into the system of a major corporation. Your network can be destroyed easily.
- Simple wear and tear. It’s strange to think about a high-tech industry having wear-and-tear issues, but tech is just like anything else, and as your Bay Area business grows, your network and server can get stretched and contorted, and can be like a single outlet holding all the Christmas light for an entire house: eventually, it’s gonna blow.
We mentioned the costs of DDOS attacks, and they are astronomical. This can be the case for any network failure and server crash. There are secondary costs as well. New customers that went to your site for the first time and got turned away may never return (whatever your business is, there are a lot of options on the web). Customers you have worked with might decide not to do business with you anymore because they can’t trust you with their information. It’s very hard to calculate the potential and secondary costs, but as a business you know the fragility of your margins. A lost couple of days could mean a total breakdown.
Preventing Network Failure
There are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening.
- Improved network security begins with the staff. A lot of businesses, especially retailers, are afraid of embracing technology because of the risks, especially when it comes to servers, but the benefits outweigh that. You just have to be careful. Train your staff on password security and other safety measures.
- Upgrade your equipment. You don’t have to jump every time there is a new product to enhance your network, but keeping your network up to date, especially when you are expanding, helps to avoid the wear-and-tear that is natural as network usage outstrips its initial capability.
- Don’t let problems become catastrophes. This seems obvious, but too many small businesses don’t have the IT capacity to fix even minor network issues while still taking care of everything else that needs to be done, and so they employ patchwork solutions, sticking a piece of gum on the leaky pipe and hope it holds. That never ends well. It’s human nature to kick the can down the road and hope for the best, but that isn’t the smart course.
Of course, it is very possible to avoid all of this by using an external business IT and networking service, who can set up your network, upgrade it for growth, keep it secure, and monitor your network so that small problems are fixed before they turn catastrophic. When it comes to your network, prevention and security are your best friends.
In our initial example, we talked about the business that vanished. It’s easy to empathize with her, but think of all the other businesses. They opened up shop, had their customers come in, and continued their work uninterrupted. More and more businesses are at risk of vanishing because of network failure. By planning ahead, and getting the help you need, you can be one of the ones that survives.