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What can we learn from Target’s recent outage?

There is a lot to be learned from Target, which recently underwent a huge cash-register outage that reportedly caused the company to lose out on nearly $100 million in sales over a two-day period.

On a Saturday afternoon, for roughly two hours, Target cash registers across the country stopped working, preventing customers from making purchases in stores. The next day, a similar outage occurred, causing registers to go down for 90 minutes. The problem, the company said, was not caused by Target’s software but by a third-party that provides its point-of-sale system.

Disgruntled customers, some of whom only learned of the issue as they got in line to check out, left stores and shared their dissatisfaction across social media.

This is a prime example of how businesses can be impacted by downtime. Not only does it affect the hard sales from customers unable to make their purchases, but it also leads to brand damage, data loss and lost productivity as employees stand around unable to work.

Downtime can cause more than an inconvenience; it could drive a company out of business altogether, especially the smaller businesses that have fewer resources behind them. According to a report on data center outages, unplanned downtime costs $8,851 per minute in 2016, up from $7,908 in 2013.

So what can we learn from Target’s recent mishap?

– Don’t panic if an issue occurs. Document everything and work towards a solution.
– Know who to contact if technology fails.
– Notify customers of the issue right away. Be upfront with what’s going on and provide a timetable for fixing the problem (but don’t lie if you are not sure!) Apologize and sympathize.
– Offer coupons, snacks and beverages to customers for the inconvenience.
– Prepare for backlash from disgruntled customers.
– Once the problem is resolved, examine your system for internal and external weaknesses and find out where the problem originated. (Did someone trip over a power cord or was it a more widespread failure?)
– Moving forward, monitor your IT system so that you know about an issue before your customer does.
– If you are using a lower-grade hardware system, upgrade to an enterprise-level network infrastructure. Higher-grade equipment helps maintain reliability so that productivity will not be lost.
– Have a plan B/backup system in place, as well as a backup power supply in case weather is the culprit. Businesses can invest in an uninterruptible power supply, or UPS. A UPS provides backup battery power to your IT systems and it kicks in the moment regular power goes offline. Through a UPS, any loss of power will immediately transfer to the battery supply, without any noticeable interruption for the user.
– Consider using cloud servers, which are housed in colocation centers. They are more convenient and reliable due to their easy accessibility, but they’re also safer since they create automatic backups to prevent data loss for the client.

Follow these tips and don’t let downtime take your business down.

Murtaza Jaffer is the co-owner of EBC Printing of Trexlertown. He can be reached at murtaza@ebclv.com

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