May 21, 2024

Working in the dark: How SA enterprises can minimise the impact of network outages

By Prenesh Padayachee, Group Chief Digital & Operations Officer at SEACOM

Internet and network outages are a constant threat to any enterprise in South Africa. Whether it’s an issue experienced by the service provider, an internal misconfiguration, a cybersecurity incident, or an act of human error, there are severe consequences to prolonged network outages that impact all businesses, especially smaller ones and those whose continuity is dependent on digital and IT operations. An outage can lead to a temporary drop in profitability, significant drops in productivity, and an overall limited ability to deliver on promised products, services, and experiences.

To avoid this, enterprises need to take initiative and install protocols, technologies, and ways of working that shield them from the effects of outages. The best approach to this is two-fold: consider what the organisation can do, and what its people can do for the organisation.

Every employee should…

  • Earmark and prioritise offline-capable applications: Most modern business applications are built with always-on connectivity in mind. Therefore, employees need to identify the ones they can continue to use even when the network goes down.
  • Have your data backed up and ready to go: Company employees should have no excuse not to stay busy during an outage. By keeping up-to-date copies of the data and projects that they are working on at any given time, employees can minimise the impact of network downtime on their productivity levels.
  • Leverage cloud-based storage and services: As enterprises adopt cloud computing and migrate their data and applications to the cloud, employees should follow suit. By using consumer and public cloud services, teams never lack access regardless of network status or where they are working.

These recommendations all form part of a culture of proactivity and preparedness that organisations need to enshrine throughout their workforce and divisions. When an outage occurs, the element of collaboration and teamwork start to exhibit their true value and, by working together, organisations can weather the storm they’re facing down.

Every enterprise should…

  • Have a response plan in place: Efficiency and following due process are key to effectively managing an outage, which is why organisations need to know what that process should entail. A comprehensive response plan covers several key steps, including notifying end users and employees, prompting help desks and support services to help manage queries, checking power supplies and contacting service providers, and logging and examining error messages to discover the root cause of the outage.
  • Dedicate sufficient budget and resources for potential outages: Planning for an outage should never occur after one has taken place. Allocating appropriate resources includes provisioning your network with backup batteries or a generator in the event of power failures, storing spare components, and implementing a notification system for teams and personnel to be made aware of the outage.
  • Invest in multiple connectivity technologies: With fixed connectivity serving as the bedrock of all enterprise networks, organisations shouldn’t be reliant on a single solution for all their business activities. A diverse mixture of both fixed and wireless solutions is recommended.

On that note, enterprises in South Africa are starting to reap the benefits of a diversified Internet landscape. The introduction of low earth orbit (LEO) satellite connectivity gives organisations a new broadband option and is especially ideal for those who have a large network footprint spread across large geographical areas, and that don’t always have a reliable supply of electricity.

Be strong, tough, and hardy

Network resilience is characterised by redundancy (the good kind), robustness, and agility. For an organisation’s network to be resilient, it must have multiple pathways and systems that can take control of functions in the event of another system failing. Organisations can ensure this by leveraging traffic management solutions that help monitor their networks and reroute where necessary.

However, first and foremost, enterprises need to engage with their broadband and infrastructure providers to source the ideal solutions and managed services. With the local growth of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and cloud computing, and more and more company systems no longer on-premise and now being handled by vendors, organisations must ensure they are well prepared for an outage.