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If your data center goes down, so does your business. Having systems outages that last for even a few minutes can have devastating, long-lasting ripple effects.

Let's start with losses in revenue and productivity, and potential compliance penalties. According to Gartner, the average cost of IT downtime is $5,600 per minute. Considering the differences in how businesses operate, it can range from a$140,000 per hour on the low end, $300,000 per hour on average, and as much as $540,000 per hour — more than three times what it was in 2012 — at the high end.

Those are the costs you can see. But, there are others that may be hidden or harder to measure. Consider customer loyalty, damage to your reputation, and employee burnout, just to name a few.

Customer Loyalty Takes a Hit

Customer expectations regarding service are set by what a business promises it can deliver. You're unable to deliver on those expectations in an outage, so customers are more likely to take their business elsewhere or publicly express their disappointment. Because of social media, their words can spread around the world in minutes.

Losing a long-term client or having a customer go inactive represents a significant loss. In theory, you could replace a former customer with a new one and replace the lost revenue, but there are costs there that you'll simply never recoup. Marketing campaigns, promotions or other strategies to acquire new customers don't come cheaply and will eat into whatever profit you've earned. Retaining a satisfied customer doesn't require the expenditures you'll have to make to acquire, convert and retain a new one.

A disgruntled former customer may also dissuade others from staying with or choosing to patronize your business, compounding your losses. Over a year — or however long they may hold an outage against you — they may cost you many times the revenue they took elsewhere. The average angry customer may tell nine to 15 others about their experience, but about one in every eight tells 20.

Your Reputation and Brand Are Damaged

That's how system downtime can also cause long-term damage to a company’s brand. If customers encounter frequent outages that make it difficult to use your products or services, they'll stop doing business with you and share their negative experiences with others. Bad word of mouth can push away potential customers and leave a company scrambling to rebuild its reputation and win back the public’s trust.

For example, think about what would happen if a retailer experienced network problems on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the holiday season. In 2017, online shoppers received a “Be Right Back” message on the website of one major retailer while in-store customers waited in long lines or abandoned their purchase plans. The store said a capacity-related issue caused the incident, compounding the problem by leaving the impression that poor planning was really to blame. Upset customers took to social media to vent their anger, relaying the message to millions more. Some customers tweeted that they left before buying hundreds of dollars worth of items, and others simply warned friends to stay away.

Last month, a similar scenario unfolded for several U.S. airlines when systems outages caused flight delays and cancellations. Upset travelers tweeted about long lines and not being able to check in or board flights. The airlines responded with apologies that in some cases went unaccepted.

Employees Get Burned Out

No engineer wants to receive the 3 a.m. phone call that signals an incident where resolution is critical and time is of the essence. If these stressful scenarios happen often enough, employees' frustration levels rise and they start looking for the exit. Soon, you’re short-staffed and falling even farther behind.

As systems become more complex, investing in preventative measures becomes increasingly necessary. The on-call hero who can find the root cause and save the day by resolving an outage is a valuable team member, but what about the engineers who to reduce the occurrence of incidents in the first place? Engineers and other teams that improve site reliability and help avoid downtime and outages are heroes, too. They build reliable systems so there are fewer emergencies to address. Rewarding this proactive behavior is just as important.

Why? Think of all productive time your engineers are losing even after a major outage has been mitigated. Your team still has a lot of work left to do — look at dashboards, dig through logs, and perform root-cause analysis. It can take hours, days, or even weeks to fully understand why an incident occurred and implement the changes that keep it from happening again.

Solution: Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

CenturyLink delivers cost-effective business continuity and disaster recovery solutions that are hosted in a dedicated environment or in the cloud. Our team of dedicated experts can assess, design, provision, validate and perform ongoing audit and failover testing to help ensure continuous safeguarding of your systems and data and give you peace of mind for all your business continuity concerns.

Working with a market-leading provider will help you protect your brand, enhance security and compliance, and minimize risk. Our security services and deep understanding of compliance regulations will guide our architecture of a compliant DR solution that fits your business needs. Combining our global infrastructure and network connectivity with leading security and compliance know-how will ensure that your business can recover quickly from an unplanned outage.

Protect your brand. Maintain customer loyalty. And keep your employees happy by giving them the tools they need to keep your business up and running in the face of disaster.

Stretching IT budgets, optimizing your network, increasing security, or being able to respond faster to business demands requires a combination of networking and solutions experience that makes CenturyLink a strong partner in your digital transformation. The CenturyLink Cloud is reliable, secure, robust, and global.