How to Minimize the Fallout from IT Outages

Posted 13 April, 2018 in IT and Technology

minimize IT outages

We’ve all experienced the frustration of the internet dropping out just when you need it most. Or an internal CMS crashing, causing you to lose unsaved work.

Maybe you’ve lost hours of work time waiting for the latest version of Windows to be installed on your computer. Or some other planned software update. And in today’s digital world, there is the heightened threat of hackers and cyber-attacks to contend with.

The consequences of unplanned downtime can be severe. Even planned outages, managed poorly, can prove costly. Research puts the cost of unplanned IT downtime at a whopping $8,622 USD a minute.1 When you consider that businesses suffer an average of 14 hours of downtime a year, the financial impact becomes abundantly clear.2

As every IT Manager knows, regardless of whether it’s an ISP or third-party software provider that’s suffering an outage, the buck still stops with them!

But having an internal IT communication plan in place to manage outages – whether they’re unplanned or planned – can minimize the impact on your business.

1. Unplanned Outages

Unplanned outages are the ones that happen without warning. A web server crashes, software fails, or an employee inadvertently downloads a virus that compromises the company’s operating system.

Unplanned downtime are often more costly than scheduled outages as there’s no opportunity for staff to prepare. Plus, staff try to self-diagnose the problem which sacrifices productivity.  

Get your message through

Outages of this nature require communications that can bypass email (the email server might be down) and deliver immediate notifications to staff.

This is where desktop alerts are especially useful. IT departments can send color-coded targeted notifications to staff as soon as they know about an outage. Think: red for outage, amber for 'working on it' and green for resolution.

These alerts show up on desktops and mobile phone screens, making them difficult to ignore. They can also be set to expire once the outage is resolved so staff aren’t interrupted unnecessarily.

Tell staff what they need to know

Every business should have a communications plan for unplanned outages so that the process kicks into gear as soon as an outage occurs. When this happens, it’s important to communicate to staff:

  • What the problem is
  • Which staff are affected (and target communications at them)
  • How it’s impacting their work capabilities
  • What workarounds are available in the short-term
  • How long a resolution is expected to take

Rolling updates via a desktop ticker (scrolling news feeds) can be used to keep affected staff informed during the outage.

2. Planned Outages

Planned outages are the ones that have been scheduled in advance. They are most commonly related to hardware and software upgrades, or operating system updates.

Sometimes planned outages can be scheduled for outside of traditional working hours, but often they will impact on staff. So to avoid frustration and minimize lost productivity, it’s important to provide clear communications before, during and after an outage.

Notify staff in advance

Alerting staff to a scheduled outage ahead of time allows them to plan their work day around the downtime, minimizing the cost of lost productivity. For example, if staff know when the outage is going to occur, they can complete 'offline' work, or even copy their work into a Google Doc and continue working during the outage.

Many companies continue to rely solely on email to inform staff of planned outages. But with internal email having an average open rate of less than 69%, it’s not an effective channel for planned outage notifications in 2018.3

3. Rethinking Outage Comms

Modern internal communications tools are designed especially for outage incidents. Tools like tickers allow IT departments to deliver timely, targeted updates to staff. They can be pre-configured in advance, with targeted groups pre-set. So in the moment of need, messages can be flowing throughout the organization informing anyone who's affected. 

Keep up the comms throughout

It’s important to keep staff informed during the outage. If downtime is longer than expected, staff morale can take a hit, as can the IT department’s reputation - even if the outage was not their fault but that of a third party.

If it’s shorter than expected, staff are reassured that they will be able to get back to work sooner.

Follow-up afterwards

Once a scheduled outage has been completed, it’s equally important to let staff know that they can return to business as usual.

Post-incident communications should be timely to minimize any potential drop in productivity, and targeted at affected staff only.

This is also a good opportunity to provide education around software updates, inform staff of how the upgrade will improve their work life, and to thank them for their patience.

Are you prepared for your next outage?

IT outages are inevitable and often happen without warning. However, by creating a robust communications plan and investing in the right tools to keep staff informed, the fallout from IT downtime can be kept to a minimum.



1. Everbridge 2016 State of IT Management survey

2. CA Technologies Research Report Part II: The Avoidable Cost of Downtime, Phase 2

3. Newsweaver Internal Connect survey

IT and Technology

Susan Bowden

More blogs by Susan Bowden

Susan Bowden is Marketing Manager at SnapComms, a world-leading provider of digital internal communication tools.