3 ways to prevent system outages from becoming big news

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System outages are more than a problem for organisations today.  Recently they have become big news stories.  Recent issues with the following organisations’ infrastructures have become news stories across the internet almost as quickly as the problems have been spotted by the company themselves. 

Microsoft (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14851455)

Blackberry (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-15243892)

BT (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-15154020)

Sony (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-15273175)

Although the speed of news is not a new phenomenon, the interest that comes from a tech-savvy, self-serving media audience has made such outages very public.  For these companies, resolving a system outage has turned from a customer service problem to a massive PR exercise, which means increased cost and embarrassment.

This is a climate of technology news that will not disappear as a fad any time soon.  However, the proper use of system monitoring software can provide a huge amount of damage limitation.  My 3 tips for this would be:

1. Get your software to send OS commands when a problem occurs – As well as an event message being produced for IT departments to see, why not have the monitoring software send an OS command to try and resolve the issue.  A simple example is with Services on Windows – if one stops, why not have the monitoring tool simply try to start it again instead of waiting for human intervention.  A problem nipped in the bud quickly will mean less chance of it spreading into a major news story.

2. Tailor-make each user’s view – With such outages now being mass media events, the need for management and non-IT departments to be able to be alerted quickly to a problem is growing.  Any alerts non-IT staff receive you would want to be easy to understand and to the point.  There is not much use informing the marketing department about excessive page faults on a server – instead, they would want “your website is running slow”.  While the IT team fix the problem, the PR and Customer Service team can start straight away on contingency and press events.  Of course, more time to plan means more time to save face.

3. Encrypt your event sending – How many of these news stories quote Twitter or Facebook as a source?  While not at all suggesting that media outlets would gain stories by hacking into a company’s data, the possibility of a rogue person being able to tell the world about a company’s problems before even the management knows about it could be a very bad worst-case scenario.  This means that the interest certain people have in listening to simple system problem events has most likely increased with the media attention it rewards.  Having the alerts encrypted will provide that extra bit of security against such prying.

Itheon Systems Management encapsulates all 3 of these features as part of its system monitoring package.

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