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What Exactly IS Mission Critical? By @TMcAlpinxm | @CloudExpo #Cloud

Disasters are rare, and – in case you haven’t heard – data breaches are not

When business disruption, occurs, it is more likely to sneak in through your defenses than it is to overwhelm you by fire, flood, earthquake or hurricane. Instead of breaking in through your walls and ceilings, it sneaks in through your defenses to steal data, install malware or freeze your operating system.

Business disruptions used to be natural disasters, resolved by the Business Continuity Department, and sometimes they still are. But disasters are rare, and - in case you haven't heard - data breaches are not.

That's unfortunate because, according to a recent survey conducted by Dimensional Research, 80 percent of IT professionals say losing digital data is more damaging than losing buildings or vehicles, and an IT disruption starts to impact the business within just 15 minutes.

The New Reality
Service-level agreements (SLAs) for reporting and resolving incidents are getting shorter. Employees and customers have expectations that services will always be on - so much so that any drop in service is unacceptable.

Even for a problem with corporate email, IT has to determine what is mission critical to the business, and how it should react.

What Is Mission Critical?
To a certain extent, what is mission critical depends on your business and the expectations of your customers and employees. If you process credit card payments, every second of downtime is a disaster. But if you stream polka music, 10 minutes of downtime is just, well, a blessing to your neighbors.

So I've put together a few guidelines to help find the line between mission critical and merely important:

  • Affects revenue: A major incident is generally one that affects customers and hits the bottom line. So even if your core business is operating, if your customer relationship management (CRM) or marketing automation system goes down and you can't generate sales leads... that's something we would call mission critical.

Recommendation: Contact your major incident manager right away and begin resolution. In the meanwhile, have a backup plan, even if it's just Excel templates. Your sales reps can standardize their data until they can enter it into the system.

  • Hurts customer satisfaction: If customers cannot use your product or contact you, you're going to hear about it. This is especially true if you provide one of those key services like CRM or marketing automation.

Recommendation: Be proactive with your customer communications so they hear about outages from you before they discover it for themselves or see it on social media.

  • Reduces employee productivity: At one time, people waited patiently if your email was down. Today, most information workers would turn to Slack or another service, but employees who still rely on email have no patience for being without it.

Recommendation: Take a cue from your customer communication and be proactive.

  • Threatens compliance: For credit card companies, lending institutions and banks, a communication outage or any suspicious activity can run afoul of regulators.

Recommendation: Honesty is the best policy. Have regulators' contact information in your communication system so you can alert them without fumbling for phone numbers or emails, further increasing downtime.

  • Potential future impacts: In today's hyper-connected business environment, remembering where your systems end and third-party systems begin is challenging. Suppose a third-party monitoring system goes down and you lose sight of activity on a third-party incident ticketing system. It's sheer terror until systems are restored and you can see if there is damage.

Recommendation: Include redundancies throughout your system supply chain. Use closed-loop system integrations so you can keep an audit trail in the originating system of record.

  • Special cases: In June 2015, the U.S. State Department revealed that it had not issued visas to travelers around the world for weeks because of a computer glitch. This error impacts travelers, but it also presents a very serious security risk.

Recommendation: Have a major incident communication and resolution plan in place. Have consequences for SLAs.

Today, something as small as an operational glitch can bring an enterprise to its knees, so it's best to have a plan and technology in place to rectify disruptions quickly and easily and get the business back up and running.

More Stories By Troy McAlpin

Troy McAlpin brings more than 20 years of experience to his leadership role at xMatters, with expertise in process automation, strategic initiatives and corporate strategy. His domain experience includes IT strategy and vertical market expertise including technology, banking, consumer and retail industries. Prior to founding xMatters, formerly AlarmPoint Systems, he managed marketing, sales, development, M&A and financial aspects at two successful start-up companies and also worked at AT&T Solutions and Andersen.

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