If your business is hit with an IT disaster, do you have the tools and planning to respond effectively? Or are you scrambling to find solutions?
If you want to survive a disaster, it's best to be prepared for anything, including an unplanned IT system shutdown (known as an "IT disaster"). IT disasters knock you offline, halting productivity and potentially erasing valuable data. In addition, for every hour you're offline, your company loses profits.
Unfortunately, no magic button automatically restores your system and data without proper planning and recovery tools. There's also no way to 100% prevent IT disasters. But your IT provider can help you plan well, identify and implement tools, mitigate risk, and, in doing so, minimize your IT downtime and losses.
WEBIT Services has helped clients build IT strategies and safeguards for over 25 years.
Of course, as an IT provider ourselves, we have written this article from that perspective. However, both internal and external IT teams can utilize the strategies listed below. We understand that an external IT provider may not be a fit for all of our readers. You know your business and its needs best.
By reading this article, you will learn about IT providers' five IT strategies to help clients prepare for and recover from IT disasters.
5 IT strategies for IT disasters
1. IT roadmap – understanding your system and goals
Your IT roadmap is one of the essential strategy tools your IT provider creates. It will include a full IT system map, your company's IT and growth goals, and an inventory of your IT assets.
When you onboard with a new IT provider, they will map out your entire IT system to learn how it fits together, its functionality, the tools you use, and how IT helps your business succeed. It will also note your mission-critical systems—the hardware and software your business needs to accomplish mission-critical daily tasks.
Your provider will also ask you about your growth plans and business goals to see how technology can help you achieve those goals.
Your IT roadmap will also include any identified risks, system processes, and details for a recovery plan.
2. Reduce single points of failure and build redundancy
"Single points of failure" describes a setup where, if one item fails, the entire system can go down. Building redundancy adds an additional backup device or program if the first fails.
For example, a single server, switch, internet provider, or firewall may act as a single point of failure. Suppose a company's firewall dies. If this firewall is a single point of failure, the company is offline until the firewall is repaired or replaced.
If this company built redundancy, it would have a second firewall ready to go. This way, the IT system remains online even if the first firewall is down.
As your IT provider examines your system, it will alert you to single points of failure and recommend redundancies within your IT budget.
3. Recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO)
When creating an IT incident response plan, your IT provider may ask, "How long can you afford to be down, and how far back do your backups need to go?"
Your answer will determine your recovery time (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO). These goals will determine your backup and continuity systems and affect your recovery plan.
RTO is your goal for being back online before damaging financial losses occur. Your business loses money every hour it is offline. Some companies can be down for days without accruing crippling losses. Others can only be down for hours.
RPO is how frequently your data needs to be backed up. If you are part of a regulated industry, your IT compliance standards set your backup goals. Otherwise, you must determine how much data you must save or that cannot be replicated manually.
For example, a medical office may need to back up its data every hour to prevent losing patient records. In addition, if an old x-ray is lost in an IT disaster, it cannot be recreated. However, a graphic designer may be comfortable recreating data from three days ago.
4. Backup and recovery systems
Once your RTO and RPO are established, your IT provider will recommend backup and recovery systems for your business.
Without backups, data lost in an IT disaster is lost forever. If your team can recreate lost data, this may not be a concern, though it would be time-consuming. However, if the data cannot be recreated, the data is lost.
On the other hand, a functional backup and recovery system will restore data up to the RPO.
5. IT incident response plan
Your IT provider will also help you create an IT incident response plan which outlines how your company and IT provider will respond in an IT disaster. This plan will examine your current setup and plausible risks identified in a risk assessment.
Once you have an accurate risk profile, you and your IT provider can create an incident response plan. It will address the following:
- Possible risks and appropriate responses.
- Backup and/or continuity plans.
- How to save and recover data.
- What to do in response to system failure and how to bring it back online.
- Whom to contact in case of an incident.
Employee incident response contacts are essential, particularly in a natural disaster situation. These contacts should be evaluated annually to ensure all connections remain available.
Incident response plans should be tested annually or revisited if there's a significant change to the IT system.
Next steps to prepare for IT disasters
No one wants to experience any disaster, IT or otherwise. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Talk to your IT provider or team today about what you should do in an IT disaster
Your IT provider or internal IT team will use the following strategies to understand your unique IT system, prepare for IT emergencies, and reduce your IT downtime:
- Create an accurate IT roadmap.
- Reduce your system's single points of failure and build redundancies.
- Establish RTO and RPO for your recovery plan.
- Create a backup and recovery system to meet your needs.
- Create an IT incident response plan to address mission-critical systems and emergency contacts.
These strategies should be evaluated annually to ensure that they accurately reflect your current IT setup.
Discuss these strategies with your IT provider or internal IT team if you have not had any previous conversations about IT roadmaps, backups, or recovery plans.
It is a service-quality red flag if your IT provider or team refuses to discuss IT disaster planning.
These strategies are critical in a disaster, and once you're in a crisis, it's too late to ask questions like, "Does my insurance cover this"?" or "When was my last backup?" Ask these questions and more during calm times to prepare for potential disasters.
WEBIT Services has been performing risk assessments, creating incident response plans, and enacting IT strategies for satisfied clients for over 25 years.
If you're looking for a new IT provider, book a free 30-minute assessment to see how WEBIT services can help.
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