Early in the morning on July 8th, United Airlines, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) all experienced outages around the same time. All flights by United Airlines in airports were grounded for what was categorized by the airline as a “Network connectivity issue”. Coincidentally, the New York Stock Exchange experienced a morning outage a few hours later, and trading was suspended for four hours as a result of “an internal technical issue” and “not a result of a cyber breach”. At the same time, the Wall Street Journal website seemed to be having issues. No matter what you believe to be the cause of these outages, we can all agree that these impacted businesses and consumers heavily. So, what are the IT takeaways for SMBs from these major outages? We’ve outlined just a few SMB IT takeaways from the outages yesterday.
Have a business continuity solution in place.
The biggest takeaway from all of yesterday’s outages is that when businesses go down, it impacts everyone. Having a complete business continuity system in place allows you to pay a monthly amount so that in the event of a software glitch, intrusion, major disaster or system outage, you can literally flip a switch and choose a moment in time to restore the system back to its original functionality prior to the event. This is the simplest way to be up and running within a couple hours of the major event. Business continuity solutions typically involve a piece of onsite hardware paired with cloud-based system replication. It is the fastest and most comprehensive continuity solution available. While this may seem like a pricey solution (can range from $400-$800/mo), when weighed against the cost of downtime, it’s significantly less expensive. You can think of it as an instant gratification insurance policy without auditors or checks.
Backups are essential.
If business continuity isn’t within your reach as a business owner, you need to understand the importance of reliable and frequent backups. Say the reason that these organizations went down yesterday is because of a physical impact to their servers (power outage, fire, tornado). Reliable offsite backup reboots servers within a matter of hours as well, restoring the most recent backup and getting an organization back up and running. Depending on how frequently that data is backed up will give you an indication of how much you stand you to lose if you’re relying exclusively on backup. So, if you can calculate how much your organization produces from a revenue standpoint within a 24 hour period and how much you would lose if you restored a day-old backup, that will give you an idea of whether or not a business continuity investment is right for you.
Duplicate your equipment.
While an extremely expensive solution, you can also consider having fully redundant hardware. That means having a completely duplicated version of every piece of hardware that runs on the back end. This is the most costly option, but typically (depending on how the equipment and software is configured) is a light switch solution that duplicates all data in real time. This means that the system can just be flipped over to the other server setup and run almost instantly. Of course, if you’ve ever received a quote on a server project, you know that having a fully redundant hardware setup can be extraordinarily expensive and business continuity could prove to be a less expensive solution broken up over time rather than a one time capital expense.
Understand the implications of outages.
If one thing is clear, it’s that system outages completely halt productivity and revenue generation. A quick look at all the grounded flights and stranded passengers in this Gizmodo article show you what happens when flights have to be cancelled and grounded. ChicagoBusiness.com reported that United will lose $4.6 million in revenue due to delayed and cancelled flights from yesterday morning. But the real implication in all this is the perception for customers that were flying that day. Customers remember when businesses cost them time and money. When a business goes down, it’s important to understand that not only are your systems and business directly impacted, but you’ll need to do damage control to reassure your customers that the glitch wasn’t because of outdated technology or lack of security. Perhaps our most widely cited statistic is 90% of consumers would prefer to take their business elsewhere than work with a company that uses outdated technology.
You can’t afford for your customers to lose confidence in your brand. You work hard to market and deliver amazing products and services. You have loyal customers and your business can’t survive if they pick up and move to a competitor. You need a comprehensive backup and continuity solution, it’s just a matter of finding the one that suits your business and budget. Strategic IT is all about mitigating the risk within the business’ budget. You can’t allocate your IT budget appropriately unless you’re educated on all your options. Take some time yourself or enlist the help of a professional to determine what security and continuity solution works for you – and engage that strategy immediately. Don’t be another cautionary tale.