IT Disasters – Part 1 – Intro and Causes (Video)

Roger Walton talks about IT disasters, and in this part, addresses the causes of extended IT outages.

Hello, I’m Roger Walton, and today I’d like to talk to you about IT disasters. When I use this term, I mean an event that disrupts your business by preventing your users accessing the applications or data they need for more than a few hours. There are three major questions all business owners and operators should ask about these disasters. They are, what are the most likely causes of extended IT outages that would be disastrous to my business? What would be the impact of an extended IT outage on my business and what would it cost me and what can I do proactively to avoid or minimize the risk of an IT disaster? So what are the leading causes of the major disruptions in IT access that would qualify as IT disasters? In the 30 years I’ve been working in IT in New England, I’ve seen plenty of disasters and been personally impacted by several of them.

In my experience, the most likely causes of disasters to business in our region are water damages, power outages, and cybercrime. Water can cause immense damage through flooding. But businesses outside flood zones are not in the clear. Rising groundwater, burst pipes, collapsing roofs, and faulty sprinkler systems can all cause water events. A friend of mine experienced a serious incident when a water cooler on the floor above his office suite leaked for an entire holiday weekend. All of these events can cause irreparable damage to equipment and make office space unusable for weeks or longer.

Then there are power outages. Of course, in New England, we’re all familiar with power outages caused by winter storms. Mostly they cause relatively short disruptions measured in hours, but in some cases it may take days to restore your power. One of my worst personal experiences in IT was running a data center here in Portsmouth that lost power due to a utility line break. The building had a backup generator, but the generator seized and it took several days for a backup generator to be brought into service and longer still for utility power to be restored. A related power issue is that while loss of power in itself can cause an IT disaster, power fluctuations can also damage equipment, can make recovery much more challenging and time-consuming.

My third most likely cause is cybercrime. Ransomware attacks remain common and are specifically designed to take your systems out of service. But other types of cyber attack can also render your data or applications unusable. Once a system has been breached, it can’t be used without a thorough cleansing because of the risk of infecting other systems. So water, power outage and cybercrime are just my top three.

There are many other potential causes of IT disasters. Here are just some of them. There are fires, and remember that even a small fire can leave a building unusable until the poisonous fumes have been eradicated. There are internet service disruptions, IT hardware failures, IT software failures, intentional damage by disgruntled employees, utility damage from nearby construction work. The list goes on and on.

And finally on this question of IT disasters, we shouldn’t forget that we live in the shadow of Seabrook Station. While a serious nuclear meltdown is an extremely unlikely event, there’s a much greater chance that a minor issue will result in a mandatory evacuation.

So there are many potential causes of extended IT outages. The only certainty is that eventually every business will be impacted.