Have a disaster recovery plan

Perhaps the most neglected aspect of IT is the actual implementation of a coherent Disaster Recovery (DR) Plan. In fact a recent report by the independent research organisation, Data Recovery Preparedness (DRP) Council found that a surprising 73% of companies failed to implement adequate DR management plans.

Companies without DR management plans that suffered predictable and manageable IT failures found that they were unable to access key data for hours, or weeks, and in some cases failed to retrieve it entirely. The experienced extended periods of hampered productivity and suffered needless losses ranging up into the millions of dollars.

Catastrophic data loss, in particular, can have significant legal implications. Companies are legally required to maintain tax adequate records. Similarly, professionals and government organisations are also required to ensure that records are maintained for a particular length of time and stiff penalties can apply for failure to comply.

It is vital to have a disaster recovery plan in place. A disaster recovery plan is a documented set of procedures and processes used to recover and secure IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster.

As most organisations rely on IT in their operations, the disaster recovery plan also serves as a business continuity plan, ensuring business operations continue after a disruptive event. Designing a disaster recovery plan is beneficial as it secures physical assets and data, ensures a timely system restoration and minimises stress by giving relevant employees clear directions.

Businesses can design disaster recovery plans themselves, but it is best to consult a data management specialist as they will create a plan that takes into account every business detail. They know what to plan for and understand the ramifications of system failure, whereas non-specialist employees in a business may not.

It is advisable that businesses don’t wait for a disaster before activating their plan. Rather, Disaster Recovery Plans should be routinely tested to ensure it works and to provide opportunity for those involved to identify areas that can be improved.

Testing of plans is in itself something of an art form and highly necessary. Discovery of flaws during testing allows for fixes that increase the likelihood of it being of use during a real life event. Properly conducted, every aspect of the DRP will be measured and stress tested in order to guarantee that the plan is robust enough to provide for even the rarest and most catastrophic “black swan” failures.

Proactive Maintenance

Just as you maintain your car, so too should you also maintain your IT systems.

Routine, proactive maintenance from your provider monitors ongoing functionality of key IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, and networking. It ensures the business is not about to run out of hard drive, or server space, software is up to date and that hardware is being maintained appropriately and functioning properly.

For example, a cloud provider may choose to check how much server space their clients have left once a month, and alert the client when they have 20% storage remaining.

Train Staff

Now that we live in the “digital age” many companies seem to assume that employees will simply know how to get the most out of their IT equipment. But without training, it is highly unlikely that employees will be able to maximise the full potential of new technology.

Most employees simply don’t have the downtime to explore how new technology can increase their productivity. Even those who do will inevitably take a chaotic, hit or miss approach to implementation. While they might accidentally discover something new, they will inevitably waste hours, if not days in doing so.

Additionally, a surprising number of people at all levels of business are genuinely afraid of computer technology and would never experiment with new software, for fear of breaking something, or accidentally deleting vital information.

There is little point in implementing new software or hardware solutions, if employees are not trained to feel comfortable with the technologies and also made to feel at ease when asking questions about how new technology can help their productivity. Ensuring adequate training and ongoing technical support ensures that any investment in IT is effectively utilised in the workplace.

While these ways of avoiding an IT disaster in your business might seem fairly straight forward, they are often not considered, or if they are, they are poorly implemented by untrained, non-specialist staff who have been delegated the role by a manager. Given the complexity of modern IT, it is always advisable that businesses seek professional assistance from qualified IT specialists with a proven track record of success. Doing so will ensure that your business is well protected from both predictable and “black swan” IT catastrophe and that damage to productivity and revenue is minimised.

Hayden McMaster