In the UK, it’s less likely for a natural disaster to be a threat to our livelihood and our businesses than other places in the world—although in recent years the autumn floods, snowy winters and hotter summers may indicate we could well end up having more to prepare for in the coming years.
An IT disaster is often approached with a similar pattern of thought. When all systems are in working order, it can be easy to be blasé about putting preventive measures in place, but when disaster does strike… by golly! Don’t you wish you had!
Below are 5 key indicators that your services may be on the verge of an IT disaster and what can be done to give yourself a chance of a speedy recovery:
1. Your IT team doesn’t know how to recover from a disaster
In any IT disaster recovery situation, ‘business-critical’ tasks within such services are usually delegated amongst key personnel (stakeholders, Managing Directors, Technical Managers etc.), in correlation to their skillsets and responsibilities to their role:
- Who can determine if there has been a negative financial impact?
- Who has admin access privileges as well as the authority to authorize access for others, if necessary?
- Is time of the essence to complete a task? Which department must you get back up and running with immediate effect?
In the event of an IT Disaster, a business’s future rests on decisive action in the heat of the moment. Knowing who will make which decision for each aspect of your IT Disaster recovery plan, and why, is crucial to successfully getting your business back up and running, reducing the downtime period to as little as possible and ultimately, not losing money.
2. Elements of your IT infrastructure are incompatible
Small and medium businesses in London are often over-reliant on their IT teams to constantly monitor, fix and upgrade the network and all the company’s IT assets. A lack of experience often leads to the IT task list outgrowing the ability to complete them—adding stress and urgency to implement changes in an efficient manner—which, in many cases, can lead to critical errors. Having a thorough understanding of system upgrades, as well as the ability to evaluate how they can affect existing systems may be unachievable if your IT team is too busy to read up on which application is compatible with what when they’re too busy firefighting day-to-day issues when expected to efficiently upgrade an entire IT infrastructure.
Such situations make it too easy to configure a network incorrectly or can lead to devices suddenly becoming incompatible with mission-critical business applications if the network is inaccessible. The resulting downtime means staff are being paid when work is not getting done and if this is affecting every computer on the network, the business has a huge problem to solve which can take a massive toll on business resources.
Leveraging an IT support company can help keep a hawk’s eye on what system upgrades are required within your IT infrastructure from initial setup to completion—gauging how they affect system performance and your business applications. To achieve the most efficiency, these implementations must be done correctly.
A managed IT service provider will carry out a comprehensive audit of your entire infrastructure to learn how data flows through the network, providing factual information to assist you in making informed decisions regarding where you are now, where you want to be and how to get there when planning your future IT strategy.
3. Your servers are beginning to struggle
Unfortunately, it is all too commonplace for an organization to only act at the very last minute, when replacing a server is necessary.
However, the performance of a server begins to weaken with time and the older it gets, the likelihood of a crash collapsing a business network begins to increase in regularity. According to a report from Statista, research found that failure rates begin to increase as servers age.
There is always a price to pay when replacing a server but improving business efficiency is cheaper than inefficient server performance in the long run and is more cost effective than if your server crashes.
An outsourced IT support company can monitor your server and all your critical data to assess performance and proactively pinpoint any issues before a potential IT disaster materializes. This approach to maintenance prepares your business for any planned outages within your IT infrastructure—covering patch installation, service packs, and security updates.
4. Your staff does not possess the right problem-solving capabilities
To keep pace with the business demands of today can be immensely challenging for in-house IT teams. Network disruptions become a regular occurrence when the need to solve immediate day-to-day problems becomes a priority at the expense of preventive maintenance measures.
If monitoring a business network becomes a neglected duty, issues begin to mount on top of one another, and it becomes increasingly difficult to find what caused the network interruption. In such scenarios, the ability to see what went wrong becomes clouded. A crash which could have been prevented, which the business is now reacting to, causes a significant increase in the amount of downtime experienced. Fixing this issue can take hours if not days.
An outsourced IT support company can provide proactive infrastructure maintenance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with dedicated engineers whose sole responsibility is ensuring your systems are operational and available. By implementing automatic monitoring capabilities defined for your server, they can detect vulnerabilities long before they can become issues and manage your storage capacity effectively.
Your IT team will then be enabled to concentrate on more business-critical tasks. In addition, the support of an IT Managed Service Provider is often far more economical in the long run than hiring, training and retaining in-house IT personnel.
5. Your data cannot be recovered
Data backup is something that can easily be taken for granted. Imagine when you were first starting out in business—all those early mornings, long days and late nights. Think where you were 3 years in and all the work you had stored on your computer, your hard drive etc. What if, suddenly, your laptop didn’t work, and your backups weren’t recoverable?
Every file, all your projects, email communications, perhaps your financial information. If you have it saved, it still needs to be backed up continuously and restorable when things go wrong because, believe me, it happens.
All the above, I would imagine, are most critical to your business. Therefore, the inability to access this data would completely disrupt the services you provide to your customers. For many, it doesn’t bear thinking about, but you must consider it as it is a real possibility. Understanding that the risk is real is the first step in knowing what is needed to mitigate the risk—which is having a robust backup solution as the cornerstone to your IT disaster recovery plan.
As a backup method, consider applying what is known as the ‘3-2-1′ backup strategy, which has proven to be consistent over time. This means having 3 copies of any set of data – 2 copies of which are kept on local devices (server and on-site backup appliance), and one other to an off-site, online storage space in the cloud.
Don’t get caught sleeping. Preparing for an IT Disaster is an ongoing practice. Continuous assessment is essential to ensure your business is present and prepared for all manner of worst-case scenarios.
Have you clearly defined all your mission critical IT systems, platforms, data and networks?
Have you definitively outlined your protocols and escalation processes?
Have you definitively documented your recovery methods for IT systems, hardware, applications, data and networks after an IT disaster?
Have you definitively decided on security procedures for end point protection, hardware, applications, data and network security?
Have you tested your disaster and business recovery plan?
Are your recovery point objectives and recovery time objectives in line with the business requirements?
It is critical to stay up-to-date with what is happening in the IT industry as technologies evolve rapidly and are outdated quickly. It is not difficult to get caught behind on OS updates, patch updates as well as vulnerabilities that can leave your business exposed to risk—all of which can be easily prevented.