While technology often shapes our jobs, it produces stress when it caves in. One reason for the distress is we don't know the next step or we overlooked some critical item. Each of the scenarios below could happen at any time and cause a drop in productivity. Sadly, these scenarios did happen to friends during the past year and they weren't prepared.
How would you or your business be impacted if your phone system failed for 4 or more hours?
How would you or your business be impacted if you couldn't get internet access for 6 or more hours?
How would you or your business be impacted if you or your customers couldn't access your website for 8 hours?
How would you or your business be impacted if power were unavailable for 4 hours?
How would you or your business be impacted if email were inaccessible for a day?
What information would be at risk if someone broke into your computer systems?
When looking at these questions, some people will say, What's the point, these events are out of my control. The point is you need to think about what will happen before the problem occurs so you can determine the next action. If you don't think about the issue now, the resolution will take longer. Moreover, your customers and competition will be judging you based on your responsiveness.
Part of the problem is we tend to look at these events in isolation. As example, your business relies on power for many processes. An outage may affect everything from people booking orders to people answering the phones. We tend to remember the big items that won't work such as ATMs, cash registers and gas pumps. Even in a home office, you know your computer won't work, but you may learn your cordless phone system won't work either.
In the scenarios above, I provided a time frame to get you started. Sometimes it's not the length of an event, but when it occurs. You may be in a situation that is not severely impacted if power is out for 4 hours in the morning. However, if that outage happens at 2 PM when you're scheduled to print your overnight shipping labels, you have a nasty chain reaction.
For most of these scenarios, it starts with knowing whom to contact. In one scenario a friend experienced, he was the only one who knew all the account and contact information for their web hosting company. While he was abroad on his honeymoon, it looked like no one knew who to call for problem resolution. Although my friend had created a vendor profile sheet in Excel with the essential information, people couldn't access his PC. There was no paper version. Worse, the web hosting company first required the caller to enter in their account number to be properly routed. Luckily, an accounting employee recalled entering in some details in QuickBooks.
The other problem is sometimes we don't want to look for our own problems. We're content with everything working the way it is. To venture into the unknown of what if requires you to think and understand your processes or workflow. The good news is you don't have to do this all at once. Sometimes these exercises are better if you chunk them into smaller and more manageable pieces. Yes, you can even chip away at these issues in 5-minute spurts. For instance, who is your internet service provider and what is their contact information? Do you have their email, web address, hours of operation, support and network status numbers?
One point to consider is some vendors have already thought of these questions and provide information. As example, many utilities have pages outlining what to do during and after a power outage. These pages contain useful information such as what to do if you use a power generator to the sequence in which you should turn on equipment. Sometimes a company's sales rep can provide needed contact information. Another resource might be your town or property owner's website. One of the council people in my town wrote a great PDF guide with emergency contact information. (I turned the document into the world's largest refrigerator magnet.)
Although most of these scenarios people would relate to weather or natural disasters, that's not always the case. The most serious power and phone disruptions I've encountered were from construction mishaps. The Internet and web outages were caused by vendor software or hardware upgrades. I also don't think the people who break into computer systems or deface websites first consult the Weather Channel.
While I've referenced some events that happened to friends, I too had some learning experiences related to the website. The first was I needed to restore the website because of an independent artist. That's a euphemism on my part for someone who got into our images database and added to our collection some of their art.
Since I pay my hosting company extra for a backup package, I thought it would be best to use their services rather than the backup files on our test servers or our local copies. I filled out a support ticket indicating I would like the site restored based on a date. I went to bed relieved that I didn't need to do the work and the site would be ready in the morning. Not exactly.
About 20 minutes after I sent the support ticket, the technician responded and asked which directories to restore and wanted a specific time, not the date. I didn't read this email until 7 hours later as I had gone to bed. In retrospect, I should've included that info but since I've never used the service, I didn't. (Yes, I've suggested they create a restore form with required fields.)
And remember my comment about overlooking items? Bingo. I focused mainly on the articles, but overlooked some critical items. Since I used a restore from 3 days prior, I knew I needed to add back the most recent article. What I omitted were the ancillary processes that drive the site index and syndication feed. The other item I didn't realize was my restore request goes into a queue. In other words, I wasn't first in line as I am at the office. Despite the hiccoughs, I'm glad I had this backup service. I learned some important lessons about communication and timing.
The next time you're in a meeting waiting for the laggards to show, ask your co-workers how they would be impacted by these events. Moreover, if they confidently remark that everything is covered, ask them who their backup is.
Last Updated (Monday, 26 December 2005 12:24)