Proactive vs Preventive IT Maintenance
Which is Better?
It should come as no surprise that poor maintenance strategies can reduce an organization’s overall productive capacity. Extended use of anything will lead to wear and tear, which results in suboptimal performance and system failures. The goal of IT maintenance or management is to dramatically decrease the frequency of these failures and allow systems to perform optimally for longer periods.
Businesses have been testing different approaches to IT management for decades and today we have a much clearer picture of what works best. In this article we will look at the two most common management strategies used by IT support teams, proactive and preventative maintenance, to determine which is the best.
Reactive maintenance is not the focus of this article, however since it is often part of the discussion around IT management strategies, it’s worth spending a little time on. With reactive maintenance the process is simple: if something fails, then it is fixed. These outages are costly, both in terms of fixing the issue, and also in the lost productivity due to the downtime.
The “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach made more sense in a world where diagnostic tools were scarce and data collection and analysis were not easily accessible. However, over the last decade, data science has flourished and is now a prominent part of almost every industry including IT support. This means there are now more viable and effective strategies than reactive maintenance. It’s thought that a company can save anywhere from 12% to 18% by using preventative maintenance instead of reactive maintenance.
Preventive maintenance involves keeping assets in good working order and reducing unplanned downtime by performing regular maintenance activities. This is a type of interval-based maintenance where the action is only taken when a milestone has been reached. The intervals are defined ahead of time and maintenance is scheduled to occur each time the milestone is hit. For example, this could be calendar-based maintenance such as:
- Freeing up hard disk space every month.
- Conducting a full antivirus scan every day.
- Freeing up RAM every two weeks.
- Periodic cleaning of hardware components, removing dust, and so on.
It is also possible to have preventive maintenance that doesn’t follow a regular calendar schedule but is still actioned by a regular event. For example, replacing a battery when it has reached X hundred cycles.
Everything discussed in this section so far is an example of “aggressive” preventive maintenance. Aggressive in this context means taking action against environmental aggressors to enhance the durability of the system. Most preventive maintenance will fall under aggressive maintenance since passive preventive measures are something we give little thought to. For example, keeping a computer out of direct sunlight would be a passive measure.
The Benefits of Preventive Maintenance
- Promotes longer asset life and fewer outages.
- Improved efficiency (well-maintained devices perform better).
- Avoid costly failures (one study found reactive maintenance was 10 times as costly as planned maintenance).
- Less complex than predictive maintenance and requires less upfront investment.
Proactive maintenance, which is also referred to as predictive maintenance, seeks to address problems before they arise using data analysis. Data is utilized to find the ideal parameters of operation for hardware. Once the ideal temperature, pressure, and other measurements are known, the organization can continually monitor devices to ensure they stay within these ranges. This is done through sensors, data communication, central data store, predictive analytics, and root cause analysis.
With a big enough data set, predictive analytics really starts to become exciting. Organization’s can predict when failures will occur based on the analysis of previous failures and the condition of the system when the failure occurred. For example, if the data is showing a 40% failure rate for hardware beyond 80°F, then performance issues can be anticipated for devices in this range. With the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, the predictive maintenance market is quickly gaining traction and is expected to grow to $6.3 billion by 2022.
The Benefits of Predictive Maintenance
- Reduced maintenance costs – Experience fewer repairs or replacements, but also save costs associated with labour for maintenance tasks.
- Vastly improved efficiency (ensure systems are always working in optimal ranges).
- Reduced downtime for repairs and scheduled maintenance.
Preventive vs Predictive Maintenance
After comparing the benefits of preventive and predictive maintenance, it can be difficult to determine which one wins out. A combination of the two strategies might be the best approach for most businesses.
In the case of mission-critical systems, predictive maintenance is a great way to ensure that assets are always working at their full potential, and that failures and outages are unlikely to occur. For less critical systems, preventive maintenance will still ensure that the organization is safeguarded from most unexpected failures.
Outsource IT employs a combination of proactive and preventive IT support in our Managed IT Services program to ensure that our clients avoid system failures and downtime. Contact your Outsource IT account manager to learn more about our Managed IT Services offerings.