IT specialist working to recover data from a computer backup.

IT Emergency Planning: How to Prepare for the Worst

How can you protect your data and IT resources in case of an emergency?

Each year, companies invest billions of dollars into their IT systems. These include their networks, the hardware and software on which they run, and the processes they use to manage everything. Protecting this investment should be a top priority for your business, as an IT failure can be costly to your business, customer privacy, and financial assets.

There are many kinds of threats facing your IT security. They include:

  • Natural disasters: Fire, flooding, power failures, and strong storms.
  • Physical security: Break-ins or other physical tampering.
  • Digital security: Hacks, viruses, and malware.

To mitigate these threats to your business, you should take precautions to prevent your systems from being compromised, and compose a detailed response to these threats should they occur.

Doing so involves creating an IT emergency plan. To do so, you will need to conduct an audit of your most important systems, identify what risks they face from physical and digital threats, determine how you will mitigate these threats, and train your employees to be able to react to them in time.

It’s also important to conduct a business impact analysis. Knowing what is at stake should your emergency plan fail can help you establish the right priorities. For instance, having your systems down will have a financial impact on your company. Assessing the extent of that impact can help you set targets for getting your systems back online.

Choose a secure physical location for your data.

When most of us think about IT security threads, we envision online hackers accessing our data remotely. However, it doesn’t take sophisticated computer skills to compromise your data security. So long as your physical servers are unsecured, anyone with access to your server cabinet can tamper with it. That might include stealing files off the server, stealing the server itself, physically damaging the server, or planting a virus or malware on the server.

We recommend businesses move their company servers out of their office space and into a colocation center that meets SSAE 16 compliance standards. In fact, if your business handles sensitive data, you may have legal requirements specifying these standards for the physical security of your IT. A trustworthy colocation facility will have several on-site protections for your data, which may include security guards, CCTV cameras, and biometric security measures.

Colocation centers also have construction features to protect against disasters. Most notably, these include fire protection systems to compensate for the significant amount of heat that is the result of housing so many servers. They also employ backup generators in case of power failure, often with redundant systems to ensure your network stays active.

Follow protocols for online security.

Increasingly, the most common threats to your IT network come from the Internet. As hackers and foreign agents grow more sophisticated, defending against security threats becomes a greater concern for your business.

Fortunately, there are several practical security measures you can implement that can significantly mitigate your risk. Begin by limiting access to your most important data to only the most necessary employees and systems. This will help you contain any security breaches that to occur at a lower level.

Use of multifactor authentication on devices and accounts can also thwart hacking attempts. Make sure your employees understand and follow other security precautions, such as not accessing sensitive documents on public Wi-Fi, not downloading suspect files from unknown sources, and not granting user permissions from un-vetted applications.

If a security breach does happen—including compromised passwords, lost or stolen devices, or the detection of malware or other viruses on a machine—make sure your employees know how to respond. You can also invest in various breach detection strategies so that you respond more quickly should any of these events occur.

Conduct routine backups and other maintenance procedures.

Regular backups are another essential element of a good IT emergency plan. Data backups should cover your on-site equipment, off-site servers, and any remote devices such as laptops, tablets, or smartphones. You may even want to conduct multiple backups at separate locations.

Similarly, make sure you don’t fall behind on regular maintenance for your systems. Software updates and equipment upgrades are both important measures to close security holes and prevent technological breakdowns. You should work with your IT department or Managed IT supplier to establish a maintenance routine.

Invest in employee training.

Proper employee training can help prevent a disaster from happening, but it is also crucial to help your employees respond should the worst come to pass. In an emergency, time is one of your most critical resources. If your employees miss a warning sign, struggle to determine the correct response, or fail to contact the right people, it could impact your ability to manage a crisis.

A good IT emergency plan should provide step-by-step instructions to responsible personnel for how to handle a variety of scenarios. It should establish priorities and list contact information for relevant contract suppliers. Finally, you will want to test your system to be sure everything works according to plan and that your employees know how to respond.

Disaster preparedness could save your business.

Creating a strong IT emergency plan could prevent your business from ever needing to use it. By taking the time to examine your current security, backup, and training procedures, you can identify weaknesses in your system and address them before they become threats.

If you need assistance creating a emergency plan for your business, we can help. We can work with your business to create an inventory of your current IT assets, identify the most critical systems, and develop an appropriate response plan in case of an emergency. Contact us for an assessment.