11/27/2013 12:23 EST | Updated 01/27/2014 05:59 EST

The True Cost of Your Company's Website Going Down

I recently returned home from grocery shopping with a new loyalty card. All I needed to do was go online and register the card I was given in store. Sounds easy, right?

You may think I'm about to start talking about how stores are leveraging technology to track purchasing decisions and using this information to improve direct, one-to-one marketing and customer sales.

I'm not.

When I went to register my new card, I got the message "registration is temporarily unavailable" with apologies from the company. I tried a few more times for a couple of days and got the same message.

The experience led me to think about the cost of downtime to a business. A recent webcast by Aberdeen Group's Dick Csaplar shared the findings of its global survey on downtime which found:

  • Average organizations experienced 2.14 downtime events in the last 12 months with the average downtime event lasting 89.51 minutes, and 100 per cent recovery from the longest event taking 5.19 hours.
  • "Laggard" organizations averaged 3.92 downtime events in 12 months, averaging 17.82 hours per event and 100 per cent recovery from the longest downtime event took 27.11 hours.

Anyone who has unexpectedly gone without their work email for a few minutes (let alone a few hours) can tell you productivity takes a nose dive, but do companies really know what that downtime is costing in real dollars? According to Aberdeen, the answer is no, but their own research found downtime costs small companies $8,581 per hour, which seems like a lot until you learn that the financial impact on mid-sized companies averages $215,638 an hour.

Why am I concerned about downtime? Aside from the obvious financial impact on business productivity, I worry about small businesses that don't perform regular maintenance updates and software upgrades that could mitigate some of the issues causing downtime.

For instance, many small businesses have not yet upgraded from Windows XP, which will no longer be supported by Microsoft after April 8, 2014. Microsoft estimates 30 per cent of SMBs are still running Windows XP but many of them don't know what "end of support" means. In a nutshell, Microsoft will no longer offer the regular security updates that protect it from newly emerging viruses, spyware and other malware.

With the clock ticking on the end support for Windows XP, I find myself thinking about the impact this will have on SMB operations and whether they are prepared for the real costs of "doing nothing."

While Aberdeen's study was focused only on the hard costs of business disruption, I think back to my 'loyalty' card -- what's the cost to win back customers who were turned off by a bad online experience, if you haven't already lost them altogether?


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