Sorry.  The system is down.  Sorry.  The emails are offline.  Aghhhhh!

There is very little else that can cause things to grind to a halt for a busy office environment, as frustratingly as when your IT systems go down.

Occasionally maintenance has to be done, and sometimes (rarely), a system may have to be taken offline for this to happen. At least you plan for this. Do it out of hours, or when you know there are no big deadlines or customer requirements.

Unplanned IT downtime, however, is another matter altogether. Not only does it cause staff to become stressed, reduce customer service levels, decrease productivity it is also likely to negatively impact sales and profit margins.

Unplanned IT downtime needs to be avoided wherever possible.

What causes ‘downtime’?

Human error is one of the biggest causes of IT downtime.   People make mistakes.  Ensure your internal team is thoroughly trained and that you have either an IT professional or a retained outsourced IT service company with a guaranteed response time.

Critically, human error, coupled with cyber threats, is a considerable risk.  Training and awareness, policies, and procedures are critical to a) minimise the risk of the threat in the first place and b) reduce the damage and downtime if a cyber-attack does happen.  Ensure all system and software updates are done regularly.

Hardware failures are another risk factor.  This one is the most preventable.  Ensure you have regular back-ups and backup checks in place.  Have secondary equipment available for critical hardware and ensure that you have systems in place to keep hardware regularly serviced and up to date.  Keeping old hardware going when it is past its ‘sell by’ date is usually a false economy.

The one cause you can do least about is when your third-party supplier has an outage – either power or internet supplier.  Hybrid working has been a saving grace here – if people can work from home – this risk factor is immediately minimised.

The IT downtime factors

The industry average cost of IT downtime varies hugely, of course.

Financial losses will depend on the nature of your business, the scale of your business, the duration and time of the outage, and the number of people impacted.

If you experience an unplanned outage during peak time, obviously, the damage will be more significant.

It is impossible to put a solid figure on it.  But ask yourself this.  How much would it cost you if your business couldn’t operate for an hour during a busy working day?  Two hours? More?

Lost sales, lost opportunities, upset customers, staff costs.

How to prepare for unexpected IT downtime

So, prevention, or at the very least, minimisation, is the answer.

The good news is that simply taking a few steps to prepare for unexpected IT downtime can make a huge difference. These 3 strategies are quickly becoming industry best practices for increasing reliability:

1. Test your system

Having backups is essential —but it’s not enough. Testing your system by scheduling ‘friendly’ attacks allows you to find weaknesses in your system and practice incident response proactively.  It will help you to strengthen your defences and minimise the chances of a malicious attack causing severe damage.

2. IT Response Plan

Plan for the best, prepare for the worst.  Compile a Disaster Recovery Plan for IT downtime.

Define responsibilities as well as procedures on who to involve and when. This plan may never be needed, but it’s essential to have clear procedures for managing an outage, so that people know immediately what to do, who to call and how to start investigating the root cause.

3. Invest in a managed IT service provider

A good IT support company will keep you informed about the status of your site. If something’s wrong on your end, they’ll send you a notification.  They will also be able to advise you on procedures, virus protection measures, system set-ups, backups, and more.  And should the worse happen, and you do experience an outage – if you have a contract with a reliable IT service provider, they are likely to have service level agreements in place which will mean they will work to get you back online in as short a time frame as possible.

Minimise your risk.  Book your FREE IT Review with SCS Technology today. Your reliable IT service provider.