What is proactive IT, and why does it matter?

A photo of a group of people each working on laptops around a table.

Generally, people approach problems one of two ways: “I’ll deal with it when it arises” or “I’m going to prep for the issue before it starts.” In short, some people tend to be more reactive, while others are more proactive. But what does this look like for IT? And why does it matter?

Proactive IT means being aware of your IT systems, its risks, and how to mitigate risk. Unfortunately, a reactive approach to IT leaves users experiencing issues that could have been avoided.

Ultimate, proactive IT prevents stress, frustration, decreased productivity, and lost profits. IT risks range from mild inconveniences to a disaster that could destroy a business.

For over 25 years, WEBIT Services has helped hundreds of clients build IT strategies and utilize technology to their advantage.

By reading this article, you will learn four traits of proactive IT and why these matter.

4 Traits of Proactive IT

1. Proactive IT requires risk assessments

Before you can be proactive, you must be aware of your IT system and existing risks. If you don’t know your potential or existing risks, you cannot address them.

For example, a company may decide that its employees need cybersecurity training. But what training will address issues employees are facing? What topic would make the most impact?

If you haven’t recently performed a risk assessment, reviewed your company’s IT security policy, or performed cybersecurity tests, you won’t know where holes exist. However, if you have completed testing, you can create a training regimen that targets specific weaknesses.

It’s the same with your entire IT system. A security framework-based risk assessment will help you address questions like:

  • How old is your hardware and software?
  • Is any of your technology deemed End of Life or End of Service?
  • What hardware is still under warranty?
  • How much data storage do we still have available?
  • When was system maintenance last performed, and what did it address?
  • When were necessary system updates made?
  • What security processes (or lack thereof) present risk?

Risk assessments should be run quarterly to keep an active, accurate record of your system, its risks, improvements, and new goals to address identified risks.

2. Proactive IT identifies mission-critical systems

Proactive IT requires that you know your current IT setup, technology, and systems, particularly mission-critical systems. Mission-critical IT systems help your business accomplish its daily goals. Without them, productivity would come to a halt.

In addition, you must know how these systems interact with each other. For example, if a sales tool goes down, does it only affect sales, or does it also affect finance? How do these tools interact? How do they allow your employees to interact and accomplish tasks?

To identify mission-critical tools, answer the following questions:

  • Is this something you use daily?
  • Can it cause significant financial loss if it’s not working?
  • How much data needs to be kept?
  • What legally needs to be retained?
  • Can the data be recreated?
  • Is this system or data part of your industry’s compliance standards?

Once you’ve identified these systems, you must also determine acceptable downtime. If a crisis arises, how long can you be without this system before unacceptable losses occur? Can you be down an hour or a week?

For example, suppose a tech helpdesk’s payroll software goes down and will take 24 hours to restore. For this business, that’s acceptable downtime for this program. It may be important software overall, but productivity does not halt with this software down.

However, this company uses an online ticketing system to track and address customer requests daily. If the ticketing system fails, it halts productivity. As a result, the company will be unable to communicate with customers and, therefore, unable to bring in profit.

In our example, the ticketing software is a critical IT system. Therefore, it will need minimal downtime to prevent significant losses.

3. Proactive IT identifies single points of failure and creates redundancy

Single points of failure are access points, technology, or people that can disrupt your entire system.

For example, single points of failure might be mission-critical software, a switch that connects mission-critical hardware, or an employee who is your resident expert in a mission-critical topic or process.

Single points of failure are addressed by creating redundancy. Essentially, you develop duplicates where possible and affordable.

For instance, a company’s firewall is often identified as a single point of failure. If the firewall goes down, it interrupts connectivity. To address this, some companies purchase and activate a second firewall. This way, if one firewall dies, the second starts with minimal interruption to productivity.

Suppose an employee is an invaluable subject matter expert and, because of this, a single point of failure. In that case, you create redundancy through accurate record-keeping, recording processes, and, if necessary, training other employees. This ensures that the knowledge does not depart with the expert employee should they leave the company.

4. Proactive IT plans for potential crises

Once you’ve identified potential risks, mission-critical systems, and single points of failure, you can create an IT disaster and recovery plan. Proactive IT isn’t just about knowing your system and risks. It also plans for disasters that haven’t occurred but might.

When you’re faced with a crisis—a downed system, a cybersecurity attack, or damage to your office—you will have a plan to address it. Incident response plans remove the guesswork.

While no plan may be perfect, you can be prepared to address a crisis, bring your systems back online as quickly as possible, protect your data, and save your business money and stress.

Having a plan and preparations for emergencies is always better than going in blind. You aren’t scrambling to correct errors, hoping you have the proper hardware and information, hoping it will work. With an incident response plan, you will know what hardware or software to use and that it will work.

This will reduce downtime, lost profits, and anxiety in the face of an IT emergency.

Your  IT disaster and recovery plan will answer questions like:

  • How long can the business survive IT downtime?
  • Who do we contact in an emergency?
  • Is our data backed up?
  • How do we respond to system failure and bring it back online?

Next steps for creating a proactive IT environment

Proactive IT processes allow you to address preventable problems before they occur or become crises.

Performing a risk assessment and creating an IT disaster and recovery plan is a bit like having a physical. You go to the doctor and run routine bloodwork to find potential concerns and address them with appropriate treatments. In IT, you run regular exams to find weaknesses and manage them.

Proactive IT can prevent a wide range of potential, preventable consequences, including:

  • IT downtime
  • Lost profits
  • Unproductive employees
  • Cyberattacks
  • Slow technology
  • An unstable IT environment
  • Business bankruptcy

Talk to your IT provider or internal IT team about creating a proactive IT environment. Running an IT risk assessment is the first step to identifying vulnerabilities, risks, and existing issues.

After the risk assessment, your provider or team can help you create a plan to address problem areas.

Your IT provider or internal IT team can also help you build a recovery plan. If you’re unsure if you have a plan, ask your provider, “Do we have recovery plans, and are these aligned with real, plausible risks?”

Your plan will consider your immediate needs and IT budget to build the most effective strategy for your organization. If your circumstances change, you can revisit and adjust the plan accordingly.

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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