In today’s modern and heavily interconnected world, having a system outage is a nightmare for any business. System downtime can negatively affect customer experience and potentially cause the company to lose revenue. The worst-case scenario is that your company’s hard-earned reputation can become tarnished, so quickly addressing and solving the issue is paramount.
System or network outages are not unsolvable, as incidents like these are not uncommon. What’s important is you know what steps to take when your software is facing a prolonged and unplanned downtime and implement them quickly. In this article, we will present you with tips on how to deal with a system failure and how to prepare for it.
How to Recover from a System Outage
Be transparent with your customers
When you experience a system outage, get an initial message out, especially if a significant number of your customers are affected. Be honest about the situation by clearly communicating with your customers the scope of the issue. The clearer you explain how it affects them, the easier it is for them to understand the situation. Also, apologize with sincerity. By recognizing the problem and making an apology, you show your customers that you care about them.
You can send initial messages through an official announcement on your social media pages and other channels like email and SMS. For more severe situations, publishing a press release is a good way to inform your stakeholders and allay violent reactions.
Call in your disaster response team
The first few hours of a system outage are often marked by uncertainty. Therefore, giving everyone clear directions will help calm things down and abate the panic.
Your IT department will surely be the first responders and point persons for internal communications. Your Public Relations department may also be enlisted to help with external communications, especially if the problem affects a huge number of clients. If you suspect that a data breach has occurred, get external cybersecurity consultants on board to help identify the problem quickly.
At a minimum, you should involve your IT disaster response team that may include a cybersecurity expert, a senior system administrator, a networking expert, and at least two people who can manage desktop remediation. Your IT service provider should also be able to guide you in dealing with the crisis.
Form a plan
Within the first 24 hours of a system outage, you’ll need to evaluate your options by assessing the scope of the problem, resources available to you, and the difficulty and cost of each solution.
Perform a thorough cost-benefit analysis of all recovery alternatives. Should you roll back to the previous version of your software, or is a short update needed to fix the issue? In some instances, options that may seem costly, such as replacing affected hardware, might save you money in the long term by decreasing your emergency IT service requirements.
While industry standards and protocols are present, you have to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution as each company and situation are different. What matters is you think clearly and do not rush your decisions. So, meet with your crisis response team and lay down all the details of the situation, then draft a comprehensive recovery plan as fast as you can.
After choosing the best recovery plan for your situation, it is best to implement it as quickly as possible to minimize the damage caused by the outage. To avoid having a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation, you should appoint a dedicated person to oversee the recovery process. Usually, this is your IT department or your IT services provider.
At this point, you should maintain a clear communication channel with both internal stakeholders and clients so that you can update them on the actions you’re going to take and assuage any other uncertainties on their end.
Evaluate the results
While a software failure is a bad experience, you should use it as a learning experience to improve the resilience of your system and your crisis response team. Creating accurate and truthful documentation of the recovery process, including all the activities that took place during the incident, is useful for similar situations in the future. Using this record, you can assess what went wrong and worked well. It will also guide you in planning the next steps for your company’s recovery.
Write a postmortem
This refers to the process where your team discusses and outlines the lessons you’ve learned from the incident. During the session, you examine how to incorporate your learnings into your future processes.
A postmortem session also allows you to write an honest and accurate account of what transpired, including the steps you plan to take to prevent the incident from happening again. Outages draw attention to unknown system flaws, and your customers must know that the hole is in the process of being closed or that it no longer exists.
How to Prepare for a System Outage
While system outages are not totally preventable, the damage they cause can be mitigated if proper preparations are in place. Here are some useful tips to follow to reduce the damage done by a software failure.
Have a contingency plan
To minimize the impact of a system outage when it happens, you must have a comprehensive risk intervention and disaster recovery plan. This should include a business impact analysis design, a risk assessment blueprint, and a power outage restoration scheme.
By having an emergency preparation and business continuity system in place, you can safeguard your operations in case of a system outage. This also allows you to mitigate service disruptions, loss of vital information, long-term power interruptions, loss of revenue, and other potential risks.
Train your employees
Once you’ve made your contingency plan, you must train and drill your employees to prepare for a potential outage. They should know what role they would play and understand their responsibilities in the recovery efforts.
Designate a point person to handle customer inquiries
The point person will be your company’s representative in case an outage happens. Someone must be available to communicate with your customers during the incident. This way, your clients won’t feel like they’re left hanging. Keep in mind that a prolonged lag and lack of update from your end can negatively impact your reputation, not to mention it ruins the customer experience.
Prepare backup files
A system outage can potentially cause data loss, so you must have reliable backup systems in place. This will help ensure that you have a secure archive of your valuable information if a massive outage occurs. Data backup is also crucial for your business’s continuity, as missing information can slow down processes and delay operations.
Have a Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) team in place
Your Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) team will play a key role in ensuring your business operations continue during an outage. As a business owner, you don’t want the situation to harm your organizational productivity and, ultimately, your revenue. So, be sure to assemble a team that’s dedicated to handling system outages in your company to ensure business continuity.
Protect Your Business from Unexpected System Outages
An IT system outage can affect your company’s productivity and cripple your business operations. It can also negatively impact customer engagement. However, there’s not a problem that proper preparation cannot solve. A contingency plan and recovery system allow for business continuity even during a system outage and let you have your services back up in no time.
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