Recently we talked about how to find the cost of downtime to your business, which is an important piece to developing your disaster recovery plan, for both proactive and reactive planning.
But now we want to talk about the 5 keys to mitigating disaster or downtime risks in your business.
Every day your data is at risk. Whether that risk be from hardware failure, human error, theft, cyber attacks, or natural disaster, there are a lot of ways your data could be lost or stolen, this sounds scary, and it can be... that is why we discuss the importance of safe and secure backups so often, because there are things you can do to keep it safe. Backing up your data is essential. It could be the only way to get your business up and running after a disaster, or the only way to gain access to your data at all after a ransomware attack.
An important part of your backups process that many forget is to test your backups, if you’re not testing to ensure you can quickly and fully recover your data, you’ll never know if your backups are performing like you need them to, or if they aren’t working at all, until it’s too late.
Find a backup system that works for your business. Whether it’s a server that’s colocated, in the cloud, or on premises (although we do recommend at least one copy of your data be backed up off-site), or some other variation of backup storage, and stick with it! Regular backups, constant monitoring, and regular testing are the first key to mitigating disaster and downtime risks both before a disaster occurs and in the unfortunate event one does.
Pick Your Vendors Wisely
Before signing a contract with a new vendor, like an internet or phone service provider or even a cloud-based service provider, check their contracts for any service level agreements. It’s possible that if you’re dealing with regular system downtime it could be a result of your vendor and doesn’t have anything to do with your environment. This is especially important if you’re in a business where clients absolutely rely on you being up or if you promise an uptime percentage in your contracts.
Monitoring the health status of your servers, workstations, switches and any other network hardware is just as important as monitoring and testing your backups. Your ability to minimize downtime risk exponentially increases when you have the ability to monitor the health status of all your equipment.
If you see a server or workstation is on its last legs you can plan and prepare to replace it, instead of scrambling to replace it and being offline for untold amounts of time if it fails unexpectedly. This ultimately saves you money and decreases your downtime risk at the same time, so it’s a win-win.
If it can be updated, update it! This includes your software, applications, hardware, and anything installed on your device. Updates are important for both the security and overall health of your network and devices. Installing updates and patches decreases your vulnerability to cyberattacks and can improve the performance of your hardware, software, and applications. While you will most likely have to schedule some downtime to apply these patches and updates, having a downtime schedule is much more efficient and less detrimental to your business critical data, sales, and customers, then unexpected downtime. This is just another instance where being proactive can save you time, money, and unnecessary headaches.
None of us want to deal with downtime, obviously, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading a blog about how to minimize downtime risk. That being said, some amount of downtime is to be expected. Take Hubspot for example, a company that boasts about “99.9999% uptime” that recently had a system outage that caused the entire database to be down for hours and caused days of after-effects. So what can you do to minimize risk when you know downtime is always a possibility? Be prepared.
Have a well thought out disaster recovery plan that includes what to do in the short term to minimize immediate risk, and a plan for the long term to ensure the company can return to normal. Train your employees to know how to handle a downtime situation with various causes, and let them know what is expected of them to help get the business up and running as quickly as possible.
Being over-prepared is always the best course of action when it comes to keeping your business and data safe, and in your control.
You won’t ever be able to fully eliminate the risk or possibility of downtime, but you can work before it happens to ensure the effects on your business, customers, and reputation are as minimal as possible.