Can Preventative Maintenance Help Reduce IT Costs?

For any business, finding ways to control costs is imperative for ensuring the long-term viability of the organization. This is especially true when times are lean and customers are tightening the purse strings.

News organizations like The New York Times report that many are expecting a recession because “The central bank is trying to slow the economy down, in order to curb inflation, which is now rising at its fastest pace since 1981.”

However, even after the next recession fades away, organizations will need to search for ways to reduce costs to remain competitive with other businesses in the same industry. One way that businesses can save money is by focusing more time and resources in their preventative maintenance for their IT infrastructure.

It may sound counterintuitive to say that spending more money on preventative maintenance for IT assets now can save you money in the long run, but the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is applicable here.

Let’s discuss what preventative maintenance is in IT, some of its benefits, and how you can apply more proactive IT management strategies in your organization.

What Is Preventative Maintenance in IT?

Preventative maintenance (sometimes called preventive maintenance or proactive maintenance) for IT is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a strategy for maintaining IT assets and infrastructure using proactive methods to prevent unexpected IT failures.

This IT management strategy relies on making smaller fixes to IT assets before they encounter problems rather than waiting for something to break before trying to fix it.

There are several ways to schedule preventive IT maintenance:

  • Based on Usage Patterns. This is when maintenance is scheduled based on how frequently an IT asset is used—kind of like when you schedule vehicle maintenance based on how many miles the vehicle has traveled. The more you use a particular asset, the more frequently it should undergo maintenance. This is often useful for maintaining assets that have varying use patterns or are particularly prone to failure if overutilized.
  • Based on Time Intervals. This is when IT maintenance is arranged on a specific repeating schedule. Time-based maintenance scheduling is often used for setting up inspections of equipment or for the maintenance of assets that have extremely consistent usage patterns.
  • Based on Condition Alerts/Performance Drops. This is the preventative maintenance model that is closest to the old break/fix IT management ideology. Here, maintenance is performed in response to alerts or warnings about the organization’s IT assets—like making repairs to your car after the “check engine” light comes on. In some cases, these alerts are generated by a predictive maintenance solution, while others use performance monitoring tools to detect irregularities that indicate a need for IT repairs. Some organizations use time-based IT asset inspections to detect potential issues to make preventative repairs. How is scheduling maintenance after getting a condition alert different from break/fix IT management? Simply put, it’s because one would initiate maintenance in response to the early warning signs of minor performance issues rather than waiting for the asset to suffer a critical IT failure.

X Benefits of Proactively Preventing IT Issues

So, what are the major benefits of engaging in preventive maintenance to proactively prevent critical IT failures? Here are a few of the reasons why an organization may want to spend more money up front for maintenance:

1. It Decreases IT Downtime

IT downtime is an enormous issue for any organization and it’s one that can be highly disruptive to operations and extraordinarily costly. In fact, the average cost of IT downtime ranges between $5,600 and $9,000 per minute across all business types and sizes—though SMBs generally register expenses of $137-$427/minute (Source: Atlassian).

It’s easy to see how downtime can get so expensive. Depending on the specific assets experiencing downtime, an organization might not be able to process customer payments, may miss paying important invoices (resulting in late fees or other penalties), suffer delays on large projects, have routine workflows come to a grinding halt, be unable to order mission-critical resources, or even be more susceptible to phishing schemes that are designed to steal money (because the organization is unable to verify vendor identities).

2. Preventative Maintenance Is Often Less Costly Than Break/Fix Repairs

While performing preventative maintenance does cost a bit of time and money, it is often far less expensive than waiting for an asset to completely fail before attempting to fix it.

How much more affordable is preventative maintenance compared to break/fix repairs? Estimates may vary depending on the specific asset being maintained/repaired, but engineering consultancy firm TWI Global estimates that “running a piece of equipment to failure can cost ten times as much as performing periodic maintenance.” This estimate is based on both downtime for the asset and the cost of repair/replacement.

For example, say you have a server in a database valued at $10,000. If left unmaintained, it would suffer a critical failure after one year that costs $3,000 of parts and labor to fix, but the asset would be down for ten hours minimum as you have to put in a request for repair and wait for a technician to fix it. At the minimal average cost of $137/minute for the cost of unplanned downtime, that would be $82,200 of losses from the downtime—bringing the total to $85,200.

For that cost, you could have bought another eight identical servers to act as backups and prevented the downtime entirely.

With preventative maintenance, you could buy a second server to act as a backup (eliminating the potential single point of failure) and take the server down once every few months for basic maintenance that lasts a few minutes to an hour. Because of the backup, you avoid tens of thousands of dollars of IT downtime costs and only have to worry about parts and labor. That’s a cost of $10,000 for the extra server, and maybe $3,000 of parts and labor throughout the course of the year (odds are it would be less since preventive fixes are less labor-intensive and may not require expensive part replacements) for a total cost of $13,000 for that year—saving $72,200 compared to the break/fix method.

While this is a hypothetical example, it helps to demonstrate just how much of an impact preventive maintenance can have on your IT costs.

3. Increased Productivity and Performance for IT Assets (and Their Users)

When IT assets are left to run constantly without any real maintenance, there’s an increased chance of issues cropping up that impact the performance of any employee using those assets.

For example, if a server with mission-critical software isn’t routinely given basic maintenance (such as defragging, cleanup of any registry errors, virus/malware scans, etc.), then there’s a greater chance that the server will start to lag or fail to perform as expected. This can be disruptive to your operational workflows even before the server fails completely.

One issue that is common for under-maintained IT assets is increased lag or latency for common system requests. Lag/latency is a delay between a command input and the response of the IT asset processing the request. As the asset’s level of wear increases, lag can stretch from mere milliseconds (barely noticeable to users) to several seconds or more. This is an issue since it impacts user experience (UX) and can, over time, waste hours of labor spent on waiting for the asset to process requests.

Poor UX is a problem since it can make employees (or external users like your customers) less willing to use the software. In the case of internal users, like employees, a lack of technology adoption can create systematic problems for maintaining productivity and consistent processes since some employees may be using the solution as intended while others are using workarounds that may be less efficient or may interfere with the process workflow.

In the case of customers, poor UX can be a detriment to customer retention. In today’s world of instant gratification through streaming services, two-day (or even same-day) shipping, and immediate access to information through the internet, consumers are less willing to put up with even minor delays and issues. So, maintaining a good UX by ensuring IT asset performance and uptime can be crucial.

Tips for Being More Proactive about IT Management

So, how can you be more proactive about maintaining your IT assets? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Set Aside an IT Maintenance Budget. One of the primary disadvantages of preventive maintenance for IT assets is that it has an immediate, and frequently repeated, cost compared to the old break/fix model. So, it’s important to set aside some room in the budget for conducting regular maintenance. However, while this does increase upfront costs a little, they are often much more predictable than the costs for repairing an asset after it breaks.
  • Consider Supplementing Pre Planned Maintenance Schedules with Condition Alert Solutions. In addition to scheduling regular maintenance checks under a time-based preventative maintenance plan, consider using a solution that can provide alerts based on IT asset performance in case of a sudden drop in asset performance.
  • Outsource Your IT Management and Maintenance to a Dedicated Team of Professionals. Managing IT assets internally can be an expensive proposition—even after taking into account the cost savings that preventive maintenance can provide. Hiring an internal IT expert to manage mission-critical systems can easily be a six-figure expense for a company that needs an expert with specific IT skills and that only provides a single IT team member with no extra redundancy to cover their vacations, sick days, or when they leave for new opportunities. Leveraging an outsourced IT services provider can provide a whole team of experts for a fraction of the cost of hiring them internally—helping ensure 24/7 monitoring and maintenance of your mission-critical IT.

Are you ready to transform your IT management strategy? Reach out to IT Proactive today to get started!

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