Quantifying The Impact Of Downtime: What We Can Learn From Recent New York Times, Google, And Amazon Outages

Last week there were several of outages that got me thinking more about the cost of downtime. I get this question a lot: what is the industry average cost of downtime? I hate answering "it depends," but that's the truth. So much depends on the organization, the industry, the duration of the downtime, the number of people impacted, etc. And not all of it is about dollars and sense. Reputation, customer retention, employee satisfaction, and overall confidence can be shaken by even a short outage. Take, for example, the New York Times' mysterious outage on August 14, 2013, of around two hours. While two hours might not seem like much, in the middle of a news-heavy weekday, it made a lasting impression. The stock dropped, twitter exploded, and the Wall Street Journal dropped their paywall to try and capture readers. In this case, I argue the biggest impact of downtime was not the drop in stock price, but the loss of confidence and loss of competitive advantage.

Here is a very different example: Google experienced between one and five minutes of downtime (amazing that this is news, but it is), on August 17. While this outage reportedly cost the company upwards of $500,000 (making their hourly cost of downtime astronomical), but as a result, internet traffic overall dropped by 40%. Their biggest impact was on customers and strategic partner over the long term.

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