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Server downtime is bad. Server slowness is worse

Oct 04, 20173 mins
Data CenterServers

A server going down can really muck things up for any business. Also problematic, and costly, though, are slow servers, databases and networks.

I’ve worked at my fair share of large corporations in my life, and like most of you, I’ve experienced more network and server outages than I can shake a stick at. Sometimes these outages are small and only mildly disruptive (a file server going down for a few minutes). Other times, an outage can cause massive, widespread work stoppages (such as when an email server goes offline for multiple hours — or days). 

These outages are, at least for the company, bad things. If your employees can no longer communicate, work all but grinds to a halt. One hour of total downtime multiplied by the average hourly pay of your employees can equal a pretty big amount of lost moolah.

Yet there’s another issue causing the same sort of loss of productivity (and money) that many companies don’t think about much: the speed of those IT services (email, file servers, company databases, etc.).

How slow systems reduce employee productivity

Let’s assume a hypothetical situation.

You’ve adopted a web-based email system. Loading that system, on average, takes 10 seconds. You have 1,000 employees across your organization. Each employee loads that web email three times per day (this is probably a gross underestimation).

That equates to, each day, 500 minutes of potential lost productivity. Over eight hours. Every day. That’s enough lost time to account for an entire person working full time. 

Per year, we’re talking about 1,920 (approximately) lost hours  of productivity due to your web-based email system being a teensy bit pokey. That’s roughly the equivalent of total email outages — impacting every employee in your organization — for two straight hours during peak working hours. Every year. 

Email isn’t the only potential culprit here, just the most cathartic to talk about. (I think we’ve all experienced slow or flakey email systems at one company or another.) Slow file transfers across a company. Source controls systems that are annoyingly pokey. Databases (like a CRM system) that slowly refreshes the page every time you update a single record. 

It all adds up. Fast.

And so often, it seems to be web-based infrastructure systems, of one kind or another, that are the slowest.

Possible solution to slow systems

Interestingly, older systems often seem to be faster than newer, fancier systems. A web-based email from 10 years ago will (usually) load like greased lightning compared to a newer, fancier system.

Sometimes it’s best, for maximum productivity and speed, to upgrade the hardware and core infrastructure (network connections, faster disks, better switches, operating system, etc.) and stick with simpler, faster-performing (which, often, means “older”) user-accessible software.

It may seem weird, but it’s true.


Bryan Lunduke began his computing life on a friend's Commodore 64, then moved on to a Franklin Ace... and then a 286 running MS-DOS. This was followed by an almost random-seeming string of operating systems: ranging from AmigaOS to OS/2, and even including MacOS 8. Eventually, Bryan tried Linux. And there he stayed. In 2006, Bryan founded the Linux Action Show - growing it into the largest Linux-centric podcast on the planet. He's also the creator of 'Linux Tycoon,' the video game about managing a Linux distribution. Today, he is a writer and works as the Social Media Marketing Manager of SUSE. On this here blog, he seeks to accomplish two goals: 1) To be the voice of reason and practicality in the Linux and Open Source world. 2) To highlight the coolest things happening throughout the world of Linux.