Author: Mohamad Rizk, Manager System Engineers, Middle East at Veeam Software
One of the rarely spoken about aspects of technology is the level of compromise it requires.
Fact is users will have to put up with irritating side-effects, and will only accept doing so because the overall advantage it brings is so great.
The smartphone is probably the greatest example of this concept. Yes, it can make life easier. Yes, it can be everything from a TV to a notebook. But the compromise is that it requires charging sometimes twice a day.
The service equivalent, meanwhile, is probably planned (or scheduled) downtime. Something customers have to endure every so often, and do so because online banking (for example) remains far more convenient than going into a branch, even if the website disappears every so often for routine maintenance.
But today, the winds are changing. As technology improves, consumer expectations move.
Picky, choice-rich, consumers are not noted for their patience when let down. If availability isn’t instant, they aren’t interested. And brand loyalty is an antiquated concept when competition is so rife in every market.
It means that something businesses had always considered routine is suddenly a big issue for consumers. While planned downtime was once an acceptable excuse for a lack of service, businesses are soon going to have to turn to new backup and support innovations to ensure that the promise of ‘always on’ can actually mean ‘always on’.
In August 2017, Barclays announced that almost 1 million of its customers would be without online, mobile and telephone banking services for a weekend. The reason? They are in the process of separating their retail and investment arms.
More or less all banks and consumer-dependent businesses with a substantial digital presence perform ‘scheduled maintenance’ from time to time.
Of course, to businesses the process probably sounds fairly reasonable. A bit of disruption for a greater good. Better online services for all.
But look at it from the consumer’s perspective: “You’re doing maintenance, on your systems, to comply with your legislation. But I’m losing out as a result.”
Even when the eventual aim of it is to safeguard consumer finances, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the average customer has a fairly hard deal in not being able to do so much as check their bank balance, pay an electricity bill or access essential services for a couple of days.
Businesses who plan downtime should spend more time looking for ways to keep a viable minimum number of their services open. Rather than resting on a ‘planned downtime’ excuse.
Essential services must remain essential
The problem of planned downtime is not just applicable to the business or financial communities.
Any industry, sector or organization that provides a service has to start thinking about how technologies can ensure their customers are able to access everything they need to – especially when it’s as simple as isolating one server for backup or maintenance, so that another can keep things going.
Any large consumer-facing organization or business, can use emerging solutions that allow vital work to take place, while the frontline stays online.
The next evolution of availability
As recently as five years ago, we as consumers or businesses would accept or understand unplanned downtime as part of our digital experience.
Innovators were trying to do interesting things to make our lives easier. And if that meant a little disruption every now and then, so be it.
But gradually expectations change. Better tech generally breeds more impatience and less willingness to wait for a service.
Scheduled downtime starts to make headlines. And, eventually, it becomes an issue which is worth switching providers to avoid.
For businesses, the consumer desire for better and more consistent service has big implications.
First among which is a new meaning for availability that doesn’t include ‘planned downtime’ within its lexicon.