Over the past few years there have been many high-profile cases of major IT outages slamming companies around the world.
Examples in recent memory include Southwest Airlines in the US experiencing a system shutdown that cancelled 2,300 flights over four days. Or a problem with British Airways IT systems going down, and leaving 75,000 passengers stranded over two days.
Then there was the WannaCry ransomware outbreak which hit companies all over the world, including the National Health Service in the UK resulting in hospitals being closed and patients turned away.
In Australia, the country’s largest communications provider Telstra experienced several major outages over the course of six months where thousands and thousands of customers lost their phone and internet access for hours or days at a time.
And just last month, a sustained cyber attack crippled the US city of Atlanta – the six million citizens of that city couldn’t pay traffic fines or water bills, report potholes or graffiti or use the free wifi at the airport.
The upshot of these outages for these organisations included lost productivity, massive financial losses, reputational loss and even legal problems.
If some of the biggest corporations in the world can experience system outages on such a large scale, it goes to show that any company is not immune. Whether your organisation is large or small, if you rely on information technology to carry out your core business operations, your organisation could suffer a similar fate.
And depending on the scale of the outage and other unique aspects of your company, a big enough and long enough outage could be catastrophic.
What CIOs can take away from all of this is the importance of investing in business continuity and disaster recovery platforms, as well as putting strategies in place beforehand to make their organizations’ systems as robust as possible to protect against preventable outages.
- Regular maintenance on network infrastructure.
- Keeping software up-to-date with patches from vendors to ensure any exploits are fixed and your systems are not left vulnerable to cyber criminals.
- Backing up data and ensuring that data is somewhere safe, preferably off site in a data recovery center. This means that if the worst should happen to your headquarters – eg: fire, natural disaster or terrorist attack – your data will be secure and easy-to-access elsewhere.
- Data needs to be backed up regularly to ensure that your critical information is up-to-date at all times.
- When doing major upgrades, testing of systems in parallel is key to avoid major disruptions to your user base, especially if something goes wrong with the upgrade.
- Improved communication with customers and other stakeholders when there is an issue.
- Improved internal communications when there is a critical issue, for example utilizing DeskAlerts software to send messages to all staff to keep them informed of what is going on.
- Better security training for all staff to help identify threats so they don’t unwittingly unleash an catastrophic situation on the company: eg, knowing how to beware of phishing scams or not opening suspicious email attachments.
- Invest in quality systems that can operate at and beyond the capacity your business needs.