This article was written by guest blogger, Daan Pepijn

In information technology, high availability refers to the continuous operation of a system or component. It is colloquially referred to as the “5 nines,” which means being available 99.999% of the time. This availability can refer to the availability of the local network, the web server, or any or all of the IT resources of an organization. For small businesses, this high availability is an important requirement especially when it comes to meeting customer expectations, and particularly in growing and expanding.

Scale and traction are among the main goals of any small business or startup. Opportunities for growth will always exist especially for companies that are well-managed and consistent in providing great products and services. In this regard, high availability yields a myriad of benefits. In terms of business growth, these advantages translate to improvements in the following four vital aspects of doing business that contribute to growth.

1. Reliability

Obviously, the more highly-available a network is, the more reliable it is for both internal and external clients — this applies to both administrative and end-user needs. There will be fewer (or, ideally, zero) disruptions or inconveniences in the operations of a business if its network has very minimal downtime. For companies that run websites or offer web services, users will surely appreciate services that are continuously and reliably delivered.

In virtually all cases, high availability requires additional appliances or hardware resources that takes over network responsibilities in case the primary unit stops or becomes dysfunctional. Ideally, the infrastructure is laid out in a distributed setup, with adequate failovers. In other words, a backup system is used to ensure the activity of the network and the continuity of the services being delivered.

A reliable network helps drive traction and growth by helping create a dependable backbone for business operations. When internal and external operations are uninterrupted, it is easier to focus on attaining growth, since there will be no issues or interruptions that will take away the attention and resources otherwise better spent on core business activities essential to growth.

2. Customer Satisfaction

It’s a no-brainer: if you have satisfied customers, you will gain more customers. More customers will mean better revenues. In turn, more revenues mean more resources and a good condition for pursuing expansion.

Customer satisfaction is enhanced with high availability in at least three ways. First, being able to continuously serve customers through your online store (from the product galleries to the transaction system) or your online services (web services or applications) creates a reputation of reliability and a generally commendable customer experience. No customer would be encouraged to keep returning to an online store that often experiences downtime or encounters problems during gallery browsing and checkouts.

The other way through which high availability improves customer satisfaction is the continuity of internal business processes and activities. Network or system disruptions are bound to affect the internal operations of a company, bringing about a considerable impact on productivity and efficiency. A company that is unable to smoothly function internally cannot be expected to deliver satisfactory products and address customer concerns in a prompt and efficient manner.

Another area in which high availability enhances customer experience is backup window reduction. By using high availability systems, mandatory downtimes for creating system backups will be reduced or shortened. Customers of an online store, online bank, or other online product/service provider will surely appreciate getting close-to-perfect 24/7 service.

There are many costs associated with downtimes and outages, and poor customer satisfaction is among the most significant ones. Without a doubt, customer satisfaction helps drive startup growth. It may appear unrelated to the concept of high availability but it certainly is and should be one of the major reasons to consider in adopting high availability systems.

3. Automation

This may not be applicable to all startups but it’s worth mentioning that high availability can have an impact on automation. Companies involved in manufacturing activities with automated components will severely suffer from a system that frequently crashes or goes offline. Automation is a growth driver, as it is one of the means by which businesses can scale operations with limited resources. It should not be hampered by system availability issues.

4. Reliability

This particularly applies to startups with businesses that heavily rely on websites and other client-facing applications. Many high availability systems make use of techniques that improve website loading reliability. Nowadays, network optimization solutions like Incapsula adopted a cloud-based approach to load balancing and real-time monitoring services to ensure that online resources are not overloaded, which often leads to breakdowns and thus undelivered services. This cloud-based approach would be attractive to small and medium enterprises, SaaS companies and startups because of the cost-effectiveness and scalability. To add, it addresses load balancing more efficiently than the traditional DNS-based approach, which relies on time-to-live (TTL), a system that can take hours or even a day to resolve.

Related: What are Load Balancers?

Website speed and reliability are fundamental requirements to consider for businesses that directly market and sell products online. These matter not only when it comes to providing a great user experience, but are also among the criteria that search engines use in ranking search results. Slow websites or unavailable pages rarely make it to the first page of search results.

 Closing Thoughts

Growing entails the need to become more competitive. To become more competitive while doing sales and marketing efforts online, small businesses and startups need to ensure the performance and reliability of their websites and applications. In this regard, adopting a high availability system can be advantageous.

High availability has effects that go beyond addressing the frustrations over downtimes and outages. It facilitates business growth by playing a role in ensuring or improving reliability, customer satisfaction, automation, and reliability.


Daan is a Cloud Computing, Web Security Expert and Blogger. His current interests include enterprise automation, cloud-based security and solutions. Follow him on Twitter!

Image: Flikr/Pawel Pacholec