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5 Steps to Avoiding Disastrous IT Downtime

IT downtime can have harsh consequences when it comes to customer inconvenience and lost revenue. But unfortunately, it happens from time to time. Just this year, Southwest Airlines had to ground about 1,800 flights. The cause? It was largely attributed to “outdated technology and dated infrastructure.” 

Fortunately, they had a plan and were able to quickly limit the collateral damage. But what if they weren’t prepared? A minor inconvenience could have turned into a major trainwreck (or in this case, airplane wreck?). ✈️ In either case, it’s not good. 

In this blog, we’re going to check out 5 super important steps to take to significantly decrease the chances of IT downtime—or at the very least limit the time down. These steps are all about making sure your organization is ready to handle any curve balls thrown its way. 

Because at the end of the day, it’s not a matter of if, but when. So, let’s get into it. ⬇️

Step #1 - Document Your Environment

Preventing IT downtime starts with this fundamental, yet often-overlooked step—thoroughly documenting your entire IT environment. 

This initial phase lays the groundwork for identifying each aspect of your organization’s environment. Begin by creating a comprehensive inventory of all hardware, software, and network components within the system. It’s boring but necessary—so don't skimp! This should include:

  • Servers (unless you’re serverless)
  • Workstations
  • Routers
  • Switches
  • Firewalls

And any other critical components or devices within the chain. Next, document each component's configuration settings, software versions, and licenses. Use network diagrams to visualize the interconnections and dependencies among various elements. Once you have everything recorded, you’ll want to keep it updated with any changes that take place—otherwise, what’s the point? This ensures your IT team has the best references to troubleshoot any issues that should arise, without the need of scrambling and finger-pointing when info is missing. 

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A well-documented environment is the cornerstone of a stable and reliable IT infrastructure. 

Go ahead—add that sentence to your documentation too. 👆 

Step #2 - Intentionally Induce System Failures

While the idea of intentionally causing system failures might seem scary and unnecessary, it’s a critical step in strengthening your infrastructure against IT downtime. 

By conducting controlled tests that deliberately induce failures, you can identify weak areas and potential vulnerabilities in your system BEFORE they lead to unexpected outages. This process of engineered chaos involves running various doomsday scenarios to assess how your system would respond to the given stress. 

These tests might induce software glitches, network outages, or even server crashes. 😳 If they do—great! You’re one step closer to having a more secure infrastructure. 

The insights gained from these exercises allow your IT team to address potential weaknesses and implement the required safeguards proactively. By “breaking your system”, you can ensure it remains solid throughout the inevitable trials that will come its way in the future. 

So go on. 👉 Try and break your system. Wherever it fails, strengthen it. And you’ll be all set when the time comes when it’s actually under stress. 

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Step #3 - Establish a Disaster Recovery Plan

Having a well-structured disaster recovery plan isn’t a “maybe we should think about putting together a plan.” It’s a necessity. 💯

This plan serves as a comprehensive roadmap that outlines the actions to take when something goes south. Is this process time-consuming? Yes. Is it easy? No. But it shouldn’t be something you keep putting off until disaster strikes. 

Start by conducting a thorough risk assessment and identifying every single area where potential threats and vulnerabilities that could lead to downtime are hiding. Remember step 2? If you’ve completed that, you have an excellent starting point. 

Based on those findings, create detailed recovery procedures for each scenario. Write them out like you are teaching a 5th grader to recover your system. In the event that IT downtime strikes and you’re not present,  the detailed plan you create could save the day. 🏆

Here are some steps to consider including in your disaster recovery plan ⬇️

  1. Identify potential threats
  2. Form a dedicated recovery team
  3. Set up clear communication channels
  4. Implement data backup and recovery procedures
  5. Plan for alternate options should you need them
  6. Educate other team members on the plan
  7. Continually update your plan and recovery documents
  8. Regularly test, review, and improve (more on this in the next section)

By having a robust and battle-tested disaster recovery plan in place, you can significantly limit IT downtime duration, maintain data integrity, and quickly resume normal operations. Don’t leave it to chance. 

Step #4 - Continually Test Your Master Plan

The old adage "practice makes perfect" holds true when it comes to preventing disastrous IT downtime. 

Even the most meticulously crafted disaster recovery plan can fall short if it's not regularly put to the test. So what’s the best way to test it? You should conduct simulated drills (pop quizzes if you will) that simulate potential crisis scenarios, allowing your IT team to:

  • Assess their response capabilities 
  • Identify areas of improvement
  • Fine-tune the plan accordingly

These tests should contain various aspects, like data recovery, system restoration, and communication protocols, ensuring all parties involved are aware of their roles and responsibilities during a real emergency. Regularly reviewing and refining your disaster recovery plan based on these test outcomes helps keep it up-to-date and adaptive to potential risks. 👍

By continually testing your master plan (mwahaha), your organization can maintain a proactive stance against potential IT downtime, significantly increasing the chances of a swift and efficient recovery if the worst should ever happen.

Step #5 - Adopt a Microservices Architecture

Adopting a microservices architecture is a strategic move that can greatly enhance your system's resilience. How? Let’s find out. ⬇️

Unlike traditional architectures that rely on large, interconnected components to work, a microservices approach breaks down each application into smaller, independent services

(Source: Giphy

that can operate and scale automagically. This allows for easy maintenance since the components are isolated from each other. 

For example, if one particular component were to experience failure, it can be identified and fixed without jeopardizing the entire application. This modular structure not only improves agility during development but also provides many benefits for avoiding IT downtime—which is why we’re talking about it. 

So, microservices sound like a great option for easily managing the complexities of the modern IT environment, but where should you start? The first step is to assess your current architecture and identify applications to migrate to a microservices model. We recommend starting with apps that experience frequent updates or face scalability challenges during peak workloads. Once you’ve done that, start with a pilot project to fully develop and understand the migration process. ✅

Adopting a microservices architecture requires careful planning, but the benefits like…

  • Enhanced resilience
  • Improved fault tolerance
  • Reduced IT downtime risks 

…make it a compelling choice for organizations seeking to future-proof their IT infrastructure.

➡️ Discover 3 ways to gain leadership buy-in for microservices architecture migration.

Final Thoughts

There’s no way around it—IT downtime sucks. But by following the steps outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to a robust infrastructure. And if you truly want to future-proof your infrastructure, consider deploying the Direktiv. With this solution, you can:

Plus you’ll also have real-time monitoring and analytics. Try Direktiv today (for free), and get your infrastructure prepared for the unexpected. 

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