Optimize Your IT Continuity Plan With Alerts

Is your IT continuity plan as effective as it could be? Not if it doesn’t include a robust alerting and communication strategy. And without that key ingredient, responding to and recovering from disruptions will be unnecessarily slow and difficult, potentially costing your organization millions of dollars.

Poor IT Continuity Planning Is Epidemic

It may sound like a purely technical concern, but IT continuity management has a direct impact on your bottom line. Without a comprehensive continuity strategy, your business stands to lose thousands of dollars per minute in workforce productivity during an incident. Plus, a disruption to your IT infrastructure can cause your revenue stream to shut off or dip without warning. 

When a retail business’s payment systems crash, for instance, customers can’t check out, delays occur and the business misses out on significant sales. This appears to be occurring with increasing regularity, striking numerous vendors in the past few years. IT downtime, combined with inadequate continuity management, has recently cost big-name brands upwards of seven figures—generating negative publicity to boot. In fact, as CIODive reports, approximately 40% of retailers have experienced an outage in the last 3 years. And it’s not limited to retailers—any business can experience an IT outage at any time.

Not sure whether your organization is prepared for an incident? Take our 5-minute continuity plan assessment.

IT Alerts: The Missing Ingredient

Virtually all large organizations that have experienced serious outages had IT continuity plans in place at the time. Obviously, they all wish those plans had worked better.

Where many organizations go wrong is failing to adequately plan for communications during an event. The impacts of IT disruptions grow exponentially with any delays in critical communications. A meticulous plan is useless if you can’t quickly notify and activate your response teams when incidents happen. That’s why you need IT alerting built into your plan to actually coordinate those recovery and mitigation efforts. Nothing can happen until employees know about the problem. The right alerts ensure that they receive actionable information as soon as possible.

In addition to notifying your incident teams, IT alerts can also be used to notify and advise end users during events. Communication plays a central role in helping users stay productive, allaying their concerns and answering their questions. It’s how smart businesses reduce internal conflicts between IT staff and the broader workforce – and how you can avoid support ticket overload. As we’ve written before on this blog, the fewer unnecessary tickets generated, the faster the service desk can respond to incidents and restore service. In other words, IT alerts are a key factor in helping you not only bounce back from an outage but also minimize the damage as it occurs.

How To Build IT Alerts Into Your IT Continuity Plan 

Here are a few tips on how to address critical alerting needs in your IT continuity plan, in order to fully leverage your team and technology, maximize uptime and avoid unnecessary losses.

When determining IT alerting roles and responsibilities:

Define team roles carefully. The structure of an IT alert system differs from organization to organization. Some firms designate certain people to exclusively handle alerts; others leave it up to the incident response team. 

However your system is structured, staff your IT alerting team with people who excel at facilitation, communication and resource management. Look for leaders among your first-line IT employees as well as your system administrators and architects. Never rely on a single person or role to send out alerts, as that individual could be offline, incapacitated or otherwise unavailable during an incident.

Carefully consider the structure of your alerting and notification system(s). An IT incident can affect the entire business. Nonetheless, many organizations use two different systems for incident response and communication: an IT alerting system within the IT department, and a general emergency notification system (ENS) run by a separate emergency preparedness team. 

Consider utilizing a single system for all IT and general emergency alerting to unify practices and simplify management. Some organizations find that using a single system eliminates duplication of effort and cost, as well as unnecessary delays and silos. 

Specify who’s in charge. In your IT alerting plan, be sure to designate which team members are responsible for communicating about incidents and leading response efforts. A designated frontline employee should be on duty and trained to send out alerts (or oversee the process) as soon as an incident occurs, ensuring the right employees and stakeholders receive timely, relevant messages specific to the current situation. 

When choosing IT alert tools:

Look for the right features. Important IT alerting capabilities include the following:

  • Real-time IT alerts
  • Easy hotline and conference bridge setup
  • Message templates and/or other tools to create pre-written alerts
  • Multi-channel alert delivery
  • Precision targeting 
  • Geofencing
  • Auto-escalation
  • Two-way communication
  • Guaranteed uptime and availability
  • Complete and reliable security

Enable proactive communication. The best IT alerting systems not only offer powerful features for specialized teams, but are also designed with end users in mind. An effective alerting tool empowers the IT department to provide clear answers to questions like “what’s going on?” and “when will this be fixed?” Precision targeting and instant notifications make it possible to reach the right people early on and at critical stages throughout the incident management process.

Prioritize database accuracy. Your IT alert tool should be able to reach everyone, even if they’ve changed phone numbers or moved to a new office. Missing or inaccurate employee contact information represents a serious risk area in most IT alerting tools. Remember: your system is only as strong as your contact list. Keeping the list accurate and up-to-date at all times would be a non-stop job if done manually. Fortunately, there’s an automated solution.

When implementing the IT continuity plan:

Ensure employee buy-in. Communicate your company’s mission and needs. Explain the stakes – the many reasons the organization wants to avoid incidents when possible, and minimize the impacts when necessary. Involve all stakeholders in your conversations about continuity strategy and alerts.

Design IT alerts with people in mind. Poor communication can exacerbate an already chaotic situation. It’s all about the right message at the right time. Learn more in our recent article about avoiding alert fatigue.

Train, train, train. An effective incident response team is a trained incident response team. Make sure IT employees tasked with alerting are well-acquainted with and ready to use the tools at their disposal at a moment’s notice. This requires diligent training. Many well-prepared organizations go a step further by conducting IT incident and alerting exercises and drills.

Test your IT continuity plan and alert system. Don’t wait until an IT disruption occurs to find out how well your strategy works. Regular testing will reveal any existing infrastructure issues or gaps.

Want additional tips? Learn five more ways to proactively improve IT response times in our free e-book

IT Alerts With AlertFind

IT outages happen to all businesses. Fortunately, any business can implement an effective IT continuity strategy optimized with best-in-class alerting functionality. AlertFind helps organizations of all categories deploy bes-of-breed IT alert systems and minimize downtime. See it for yourself – schedule free demo today.

You are well on your way toward protecting your staff and organization.

Take the next step toward protecting your organization by learning more about emergency notification systems and the vital role they play in your emergency preparedness plan.