Avoiding downtime is a huge motivator for companies embarking on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and can pay big benefits for organizations that do it right. Outdated operational technology (OT), such as physical sensors, proprietary control-system software, SCADA, and historian, represent significant downtime risk. When they fail, costs are high. Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC), found that:

“98% of organizations say a single hour of downtime costs over $100,000; 81% of respondents indicated that 60 minutes of downtime costs their business over $300,000. And a record one-third or 33% of enterprises report that one hour of downtime costs their firms $1 million to over $5 million.”

Here are four best practices about keeping your eyes on uptime as you embark on IIoT:

1. How much uptime is enough?

Downtime in industrial automation isn’t cheap so it’s wise to know the direct costs of delayed product deliveries, idle time and overtime pay, and repair expenditures of your current business. Your business may also need to factor in damage to reputation, environmental damage, litigation, and more. To get started, Stratus helps you understand the true cost of unplanned downtime for your plant and offers a downtime calculator to help calculate.

Once you know the hourly cost of an outage, determine your tolerance level. While 99% uptime may sound fantastic, that’s actually 88 hours of downtime in an average year—or potentially millions of dollars. Fault-tolerant solutions pay dividends with 99.999% availability, resulting in only about five minutes per year.

2. Protect before you recover

While a disaster recovery plan allows you to return to operation after a catastrophe, it’s not enough.

By the time disaster recovery kicks in, considerable damage is done—and often irretrievably. Data traveling in your production environment is primarily “inflight” data, occurring in milliseconds and requiring instantaneous response. That data is lost in an outage.

You’ll want an availability solution that prevents outages from occurring, ensuring zero data loss.

3. Keep it simple

When merging IT and OT systems to achieve IIoT, simplicity is critical. Operational staff often don’t have the advanced IT skills needed to manage complex IT deployments. So choose an availability solution that is simple to deploy and easy to operate and manage. That way, you can focus on making sure your plants are performing well.

Virtualization is also essential to simplicity. Virtual machines are isolated from unexpected problems elsewhere, and servers can be smoothly migrated offline for orderly upgrades and updates. The challenge is that consolidating IT and OT systems on a single physical machine replaces multiple points of potential failure with a single point, increasing your risk exposure.

You can overcome this risk by deploying a hardware or software-based continuous availability system. Such solutions run on standard-type servers in virtualized environments and require no special expertise to maintain.

4. Solve today’s problems with an eye on the future

Most industrial automation organizations are not ready to perform a full-scale upgrade all at once. So phase your planning to solve real problems immediately. A couple of early wins will get your project off to a strong start.

Remember: leave ample room for future growth and modification. Build on industry standards and proven methodologies. An availability solution you can implement and forget about will pay itself back in future compatibility and productivity.

IIoT is no longer merely for the early adopter. When done right, IIoT can create enormous savings and competitive advantage. As you face this complex undertaking, remember to factor uptime into the equation. You’ll build a solid foundation for achieving genuine, measurable benefits.