Thereby hangs a tail: What downtime can co$t and how to avoid it

Pets Pets

There’s a pet store not far from my house, writes Peter Dunn, and with four cats and a dog, I find myself there fairly often. It’s a busy place – according to the manager, it’s their highest volume store in the country. And typically, shopping there is a quick and pleasant experience. However, twice in the last several months, picking up some kitty litter has turned into a time-consuming chore. 

Why? Well the store’s internet connectivity has gone down. The manager informed me that each store relies on a fixed line for internet connectivity. Point of Sale (POS), credit card processing, and loyalty card – they all depend on this connection. And when it goes down… well, to say the customer experience suffers would be an understatement. Let’s take a look at what this outage means to customers:

First: No customer loyalty card access

Second: No payments by ATM

Third: Credit card payments are processed using a single terminal on a dial-up connection

So, when the fixed line goes down (which can be frequent during our stormy South Florida summers), a two-minute trip takes 15 minutes, and I don’t even receive reward credit for my purchases.

This store has the added expense of a second fixed line and additional card terminal, and the inability to provide the expanded level of customer service in the event of even a basic telecom outage. 
A simple wireless back-up solution could maintain the store’s typically stellar level of speedy service in the event of a short or long-term outage. And at your highest volume (and revenue) store, that’s important.

A little research shows that my experience is not atypical. An article by technology provider, CDW ( which surveyed over 7,000 businesses, found that the average business experiences “nearly 140 hours of downtime per year.” And “loss of telecom services” was the third most commonly cited cause for failure.

Why should this matter?

Because it hurts businesses where it counts – financially. CDW also found that cost-per-incident globally averages approximately US$287,000 (EUR217,000). Think about a high volume retailer during the holiday season and you can see where an outage can have tremendous financial implications, as well as generate negative customer responses and press.

The good news is that establishing redundancy for critical communications has never been easier with the wide availability of 3G, Wimax, LTE, microwave, and satellite technology, and data pricing that has come down significantly in the last few years. Previously, high costs and fears of unreliability or complexity have been roadblocks in motivating businesses towards backup / failover solutions, especially over wireless. However, the landscape is changing – in 2010 AT&T found that continuity planning is seen as a priority by three-fourths (77%) of IT executives in the Southern region of the US and 70% include their wireless network capabilities as part of their business continuity plan.

Low cost routers with integrated cellular failover, and variable bandwidth private networking support from the wireless carriers have simplified the process of offering turnkey back-up solutions to your clients. And, if the above data is any indication, it’s a solution you can’t afford to ignore.

Blog by Peter Dunn, Business and Product Development Director, Wyless

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