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Major Causes of IT Downtime

Major Causes of IT Downtime

Information technology has been described as the backbone of modern business. When you consider how much business is done on the internet, that is probably not far from the truth. When the marketplace moved online, it changed many aspects of traditional business management, and the increased need for IT is one of the consequences. As such, network downtime becomes a major problem and a major source of lost revenue. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the most frequent causes of IT downtime.

1. Human Error

This is the most common cause of network downtime, accounting for a whopping 49% of recorded incidents. That is probably because the term “human error” encompasses a great many different kinds of mishaps. For instance, someone could have accidentally changed the settings on a server, a router, a computer, or any of the above. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to send things (temporarily) down the toilet.

When we look more closely at these incidents, we see things like “failure to upgrade hardware or software” and “failure to use the latest security patch.” It seems plain that nearly any computer problem can be classified as “human error.” All that is required is for someone to have made an oversight at some point. As such, we suspect that some companies use “human error” as an excuse when they don’t want to mention the real problem.

2. Cyberattack

Naturally, hackers and other cyber-attackers can also bring down the network. Denial-of-service attacks (better known as DDOS) can put whole networks out of commission for very long periods. These work by overwhelming a server with requests until it overloads and shuts down. Hackers will often use bots to accomplish this, with the computer thinking that each bot is a legitimate user. Unfortunately, DDOS attacks are not the only threat by far. This kind of thing accounted for 42% of all recorded outages, and it’s a much more specific threat than #1. Some reports say that cybercrime results in losses of about six trillion dollars per year.

3. Operating System Flaws

Even if your computer’s operating system is completely updated and functioning perfectly, problems can still result from the server’s OS. In many cases, servers are running outdated operating systems, and this is the cause of many problems. Since about 33% of recorded incidents were described as OS bugs, it must be a very common problem indeed.

Because a server is a single-purpose computer, it can often do its job with an outdated OS. However, problems can easily result when it interfaces with other computers. Considering all the different versions of Windows, Linux, and Mac OS that are out there, one can understand that it would be very difficult to accommodate them all.

4. Understaffed IT Departments

This is a very simple and straightforward problem. When a given company has too small of an IT department, those people will be overworked and overstressed. No one is likely to do their best work under these conditions, and no one will have time to do their best work anyway. All networks require maintenance, but they also need people to solve problems when necessary. If the same people are trying to do both tasks, they will end up doing neither very well! About 30% of known outages were attributed to this factor.

A lot of studies have been done on this subject, in an attempt to find the ideal ratio of IT workers to normal workers. It is generally recommended that small companies have 1 IT worker for every 18 normal employees. Larger companies can get away with a few less, and will typically have 1 IT worker for every 40 normal workers.

5. Outdated Equipment

This is closely related to the problem of outdated operating systems. Sometimes, people will repurpose older computers and make them into servers. This can work well in the short-term, but not so well over the long haul. Sooner or later, that equipment will just become too outdated to work with most current machines. Since this problem accounts for 22% of all known outages, this fact should not be in doubt.

6. Server Crashes

You already know that computers crash from time to time. Well, what makes you think that a server would be any different? If you haven’t noticed the theme here, most IT downtime is caused by server issues of one kind or another. Server crashes can result from a variety of issues. Both software glitches and hardware failure can bring about this result.

Our studies indicate that about 18% of known outages are caused by a server crash. According to various industry experts, the most common cause of this is a simple power failure. Sometimes, it can also be the result of a faulty connection or a damaged cable.

7. Lack Of Updates

This is a very common occurrence, accounting for about 16% of known outages. Most often, it will be a failure of the server OS to update properly. This number is probably somewhat low because these problems aren’t usually that bad. Most of the time, an update can be done quickly and the problem is resolved. Still, it can be frustrating because all of the action must be taken on the server end.


As you have probably noticed, most of these problems come from the server, or from something to which it is connected. Like any other computer, a server can go down for any number of reasons, and this list reflects the truth of that statement. If you have found this article to be relevant and helpful, we hope that you will fill out the contact form.