Maintaining top-of-the-line server performance is a delicate balancing act between power consumption, user accessibility and a variety of other factors both physical and abstract that can affect how well employees do their jobs or how quickly and effectively IT-related tasks are accomplished.
Yet in many cases, even the most stringent attempts to keep the data center operating without issue can run afoul due to external forces. In the past, distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks were a small fraction of the reasons that businesses experienced outages in their IT infrastructure. However, recent findings from the Ponemon Institute reveal that they now account for 18 percent of these problems. This is up from only 2 percent in 2010, when Ponemon last studied the phenomenon.
Data centers get caught in the cross-fire
Often enough, these attacks are not even targeting data centers, 451 Research analyst Eric Hanselman told Network Computing. Rather, hackers are attempting to shut down the applications hosted in the IT infrastructure, and the servers become collateral damage in the process. Furthermore, due to the heightened sophistication of DDoS attacks, which are now both faster and more effective due to the amount of traffic that can be generated, these assaults are even harder to stop or recover from than ever.
“It appears that these attacks are much more frequent and more difficult to contain than other root causes of data center outages,” Larry Ponemon, founder of the privacy and security think tank that bears his name, said in an email interview with Network Computing.
Preventative measures begin with server monitoring
Due to the problems associated with these attacks, decision-makers should try and stop them as early as possible. Noticing suspicious activity before it causes an outage can help immensely, but that requires businesses to implement server monitoring tools that can notice suspicious activity such as an uptick in traffic.
“The most surprising factor was the lack of readiness or preparedness of companies,” Ponemon told Network Computing. “In general, we found several companies completely unprepared to deal with this type of outage event.”
The high cost of a DDoS-based outage
Those companies that fail to prevent or ready themselves for a DDoS-based outage may find themselves paying $822,000 on average to deal with the problem, second only to the average cost of outages caused by equipment failure ($959,000), according to Network Computing. This is more than double the expense of dealing with problems originating with human error, which typically only amount to $380,000. These costs relate to lost work time, reduced revenue and the repairs themselves, though overall business disruption amounts to 80 percent of the expenses. While an outage may not be quite as expensive to a smaller business, one could cause relatively similar amounts of damage, and all companies should be ready to quickly get back on their feet after these types of incidents.
“The cost of unplanned downtime – whether it is the entire data center or one rack of servers – can be a huge unplanned cost for most organizations,” Ponemon told Network Computing.
While Ponemon noted that businesses should expect a data center outage at some point, companies should still strive to minimize the possibility of a breach or attack. Putting in the proper safeguards and having a robust disaster recovery plan in place can reduce the amount of time that servers spend out of service. By implementing the right tools to notice and stop suspicious activity that may be the result of a DDoS attack, decision-makers may also potentially prevent about one-fifth of possible outage causes.