The Myth of “Zero Downtime”

All companies should have contingency plans for their systems and data. As instances of data breaches and compromised systems continue to dominate the news, the concept of a disaster recovery plan has become an increasingly important concern for businesses of all sizes. As a business owner or IT professional, you might be able to see the inherent appeal of companies offering products and services with “zero downtime” or “always-on” capabilities. However, these products and services, in just about every single case, cannot deliver on the promise of “zero downtime”. Understanding the juxtaposition of the two words together will help you make better decisions in preparing your company’s infrastructure for emergency situations.

Myth of Zero Downtime

“Zero downtime” sounds nice, but take a closer look at these products and services before purchasing them.

The Costs of Downtime and Restoration

Many IT professionals have started shifting their focus from disaster recovery to increasing systems availability, and it’s not difficult to see why. Disaster recovery plans, from redundancies and cloud backups to cyber insurance, are costly and time-consuming. Effectively, these professionals argue, disaster recovery plans function as insurance against worst-case scenarios, while efforts made at increasing availability through “zero downtime” eliminate these scenarios altogether.

Downtime and restoration costs have a significant impact on the global economy – according to IDC, the average cost of unplanned downtime for Fortune 1000 companies was estimated at $1.25-$2.5 billion per year. The average cost of infrastructure failure is around $100,000 per hour, while a critical application failure clocks in at an astounding $500,000-$1 million per hour!

What are “Zero Downtime” Services Offering?

“Zero downtime” is, in essence, a marketing term for a service that is up a significant portion of the time. It is not, and cannot, be a guarantee for literally zero downtime. That is impossible.  Usually, this is around 99.5% of the time or higher. Even then, this (very expensive) service which advertises 99.9% uptime will still end up being down for about 5 minutes a year. That is not “zero downtime.” For critical systems such as the stock exchange or medical facilities, these expensive services make sense. Most companies may not necessarily need minimal downtime in the event of a data or system breach. It is much less expensive to have a plan that has a combination of an average uptime service and a traditional disaster recovery plans in place.

Tips to Increase Your System Uptime

There are a few things you can do to increase the reliability and uptime of your business systems within your cybersecurity budget.

  • Determine whether you need zero downtime at all. As described above, zero downtime services are not only expensive, they usually don’t deliver zero downtime. A lower uptime offering with considerable planning can make more financial sense.
  • Make vendors stress test their zero downtime claims. If you decide that some of these products or services are right for your business, consider negotiating a clause in the service contract that penalizes the vendor if the product does not live up to their uptime claims.
  • Plan for the worst. Things will break and services will fail. With a good plan in place, you can mitigate the effect that emergency situations will have on your bottom line.


At Howard Tech Advisors, we manage your IT infrastructure so that you don’t have to. Whether you need assistance creating a disaster recovery plan or you’d like to outsource your IT needs, we can help! Keep up with our weekly blog to stay up-to-date on the latest tech trends, security information you need to know to stay safe online, and tips and tricks to effectively navigating an increasingly mobile world.

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