What is Downtime?

Downtime refers to the period during which a database system is inaccessible. It could be planned downtime or a disruption that makes the database inoperable. During this time, data cannot be accessed.

Database downtime spells disaster for any organization. As you cannot access the data, applications become unusable.

The repercussions would result in operational instability, decreased profitability, and loss of customer trust. Database Administrators (DBAs) thus strive to keep downtime to a minimum.

Reasons for Downtime

In the current data-driven world, downtime significantly affects organizational operations. Understanding the reasons for downtime will help manage its occurrences.

There are two causes for downtime—planned and unplanned.

Planned Downtime

The scheduled activities that lead to database outages are known as planned downtime. These activities include:

  • Maintenance and Upgrades: DBAs routinely shut down systems for maintenance and upgrades. These activities keep systems healthy and running at top performance. Though maintenance and upgrades are part of routing, they still cause data unavailability and are considered downtime.
  • Backups: Scheduled system backups are part of a database system functioning. During backup, the system will be unavailable for users.
  • Migration: Migrating a database from one platform to another is a planned downtime.

Unplanned Downtime

Unforeseen situations that restrict data availability are known as unplanned downtime. There are many reasons for this. Many of these are not in DBA’s control to manage.

For example, DBAs cannot control sudden downtime caused by hardware failures, power outages, natural disasters, and OS crashes. These unplanned downtimes cause severe disruptions.

On the other hand, issues like cyber-attacks, human errors, heavy load on the system resources, and network errors cause unplanned downtime. DBAs can tackle these issues and increase data availability.

Impact of Data Downtime

Any downtime is an inconvenience. However, prolonged downtime can substantially damage an organization’s effectiveness. According to a survey by ITIC, businesses lose $100,000 for an hour of downtime. Timely intervention can minimize the damage.

Some major impacts of data downtime are:
1. Business Operations Disruptions: Prolonged periods of downtime can result in widespread operations disruptions across the organization. It leads to productivity loss with employees being idle. Sales might get interrupted due to unfulfilled orders. Downtime affects all the core business operations.
2. Financial Loss: Downtime leads to a revenue loss in the short term because of disruptions in sales. In the long term, investing in fixes and recovery efforts adds to the financial burden. Further, downtimes may also lead to monetary losses due to incorrect data-driven decisions.
3. Damage to Reputation: Brand image is critical to become a successful business. When customers cannot access your products or services due to downtime, trust in your organization will be put to the test, and you risk reputational damage.
4. Lost Opportunities: Downtime leads to your organization receiving delayed insights that might hamper decision-making capabilities. It hinders the ability to capitalize on favorable market conditions, respond to customer needs, etc. All these lead to missed business opportunities.
5. Data Loss: Downtime due to security breaches or network outages may lead to data theft or corruption, and human errors may cause data deletion.
6. Regulatory Violations: Governments worldwide are creating strict data protection norms. Any prolonged downtime may lead to regulatory non-compliance and cause legal troubles.

Measures to Prevent Downtime

There could be unfathomable consequences of downtimes to organizations depending on the frequency and the length of the outage. Preventing downtime is thus essential to minimize the losses.

The various measures to prevent downtime are:

  • Smart Scheduling: Schedule planned downtime smartly so that database stakeholders are not overtly perturbed.
  • Database Performance Tuning: Performing database tuning will reduce the chances of downtime due to almost all the risks of downtime. From updating software to identifying inefficient applications in advance and monitoring hardware issues, tuning decreases downtime.
  • Backup Power System: In case of natural disasters or power outages, a backup power system kicks in immediately, eliminating the risk of downtime, even for a short time.
  • Data Recovery Strategy: Establish a data recovery strategy that allows data backups in an offsite system, ensuring data security and quick restoration.
  • Prioritize Cybersecurity: It is important to prevent downtime from external threats. Create awareness among the workforce about ransomware, phishing attacks, and social engineering attacks. Implement firewalls, email filters, data encryption, and other methods to thwart cyber threats.
  • Use Monitoring Tools: Proactive monitoring of databases with the help of AI can prevent downtime risks from occurring.