Information Technology pervades every part of our modern life. From fast-food joints to hospitals, from airports to military bases, we can find IT everywhere. Which is why when things go wrong in these systems, they affect more than just a bottom-lines; they can bring entire economies to a standstill, as we have already seen far too many times.
In dealing with these threats, you need to be more proactive than reactive, for once hackers and malware have gotten past your security, it is already too late.
We must take steps to nip the problem in the bud before it has time to grow to unmanageable proportions.
But it is not enough to just enact tougher security measures.
As any administrator knows, every system will fail under some circumstances or another, no matter the layers of defenses devised to protect it. There is always an element of risk even in the most well-designed systems, and IT is no exception.
That is where risk management comes in.
You can ensure that your services can function even if the accompanying IT framework goes down or is compromised by hackers.
So without further ado, here are four tips for risk management in the IT industry.
Tip 1: Know Thy Enemy
Before you can make any decisions, you need to know what can go wrong first.
Risk assessment is the name given to this arduous exercise, where every figurative nut and bolt of the complicated machinery of a corporation is analyzed and identified for threats.
This includes everything; from the hardware that comprises your systems to the software that runs on it.
By assessing the role of each factor in your organization, you can estimate the risk posed by the failure of each, in both monetary and functional terms.
Such an assessment would ideally include an assessment of the human resources, since how your workforce interacts with these systems is the most important factor in the time of a crisis.
This paves the way for designing safeguards and coming up with alternatives for the more critical components.
You must assess not only the risks, but the costs associated with the safety measures in place.
Because beyond a certain point, it becomes counterproductive to spend more on layer after layer of security.
Your risk assessment must determine the optimum balance between security and expenditure.
Tip 2: Expect the Worst
Most glaring failures come about because of believing certain systems are fail-safe come what may.
Don’t fall into this trap.
All systems have weaknesses, especially in the IT industry, and there are always those that would seek and take advantage of those weaknesses.
The key element of risk management is to prepare for the failure of every component of your framework, from the most crucial to even the most rudimentary.
That does not mean that you should stop spending on the top of the class hardware and software; the better quality your systems and setup, the better the chances of their making it through unscathed.
But just because you bought state-of-the-art equipment does not mean that you can now just sit back and forget about it.
Instead, carefully assess the risks to these improved systems, and keep in mind the situations that can arise to exacerbate those risks.
No matter how unlikely a risky scenario seems, it is best to be prepared for it. Chances are, you would never have to face it, but if you do, you wouldn’t want to be caught on the back foot.
Tip 3: Ensure Continuity
While cutting your losses is a prudent course to plan for, it does not answer the most critical question: How are you going to move forward in a critical failure? Preventing a failure to occur in the first place is definitely the better option. You would no doubt need to implement various security measures and redundancies.
But sometimes, despite your best efforts, everything goes wrong.
Insurance and redundancies can help mitigate damage, but cannot even begin to compensate for the inconvenience caused by the abrupt termination of services.
Especially with essential services, it is important to have a backup plan to keep things up and running even in the face of a major system failure.
And don’t think it is not possible; repeatedly, organizations have demonstrated the remarkable ability to keep going in adverse conditions. Every administrator can learn much from these examples and take them as inspirations.
The elements of continuity planning are simple enough. All you need is a little preparedness.
For example, instead of discarding those old PCs you are retiring, maybe you could hold them in storage as a stepney of sorts.
Rather than moving completely into the digital record keeping, you could insist on keeping a paper trail which could come into handy when systems are down.
Tip 4: Practical Tests
All that planning is well and good, but as they say, no plan survives contact with the enemy. Especially the good ones.
To gauge the efficacy of your risk management measures, you need to test them first.
And what better way to test them than to pit them against risky situations directly?
Just like schools use fire drills to familiarize their students with the emergency measures, a good administrator would enforce periodic “drills” to get all employees up to speed on what do amid a systems crisis.
Such drills are actually rather easy to implement, as they do not need any specialized equipment or professional help – only the absence of them.
A simple power failure, or a system shutdown without warning is enough to test your workforce’s preparedness for such scenarios.
You need to implement a plan of action in advance, or you will get nothing but unmitigated chaos.
You can even work these drills into the usual employee assessment reports, with workers who show quick thinking and resourcefulness in the face of such crippling crises being awarded duly for in their performance appraisals.
Proper Planning Ensures Continuity
While we cannot avoid every risk, we can plan for it, with measures put in place to mitigate its fallout.
By accurately assessing the risks and preparing for them, you can make sure that even the worst outcome does not end up crippling your enterprise.
Ashley Wilson is a digital nomad writing about business and tech. She has been known to reference Harry Potter quotes in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.