The “Server is Down” Survival Guide

One of the most frustrating (and scariest) moments for anyone running a company is to hear the phrase “the server is down”. Reason being, that anyone who knows a little about IT knows that this means your business has ground to a halt. There is very little that you are going to be able to do if your server is down- especially these days when everything is connected to each other- even the phones.

That’s why it’s important to put together a contingency plan should your server ever go down. To help jump-start this plan, we are going to give you a few helpful tips on how to keep your business running even if your server is not.

1. Backups

This is always going to be tip #1, because it is without a doubt the most important. If your backups are up-to-date and working properly, you can actually spin up a virtual environment from your backups, which will enable your business to keep running while your IT professionals work to fix your server.

It is important to note a few points though:

– Make sure your backups have the capability to spin up a virtual environment- and do this today, before you experience a server crash. If you wait until after your server goes down only to find out you don’t have this capability, your company will be at a grinding halt until the server can be fixed.

– Make sure all of the employees are saving their data in the correct location. Really emphasize to them that if they save files that aren’t included in the backups, not only will they not be able to access those files from a virtual spin-up, but those files will likely be lost forever when the server goes down.

2. Know How Your Server/Network Works

Some business networks can be fairly complex, with certain essential services or even other (virtual) machines all running off of one physical server. That’s why it is really important to make sure that you understand how your network environment is set up, so that you will know exactly what services will be rendered useless when the server goes down.

For example, you may have two physical servers, one that houses your email, and one that houses other essential company programs. If your email server goes down, this will mean that no one in the company can send or receive email, but they can use other programs.

Or, to switch it around, if the other server were to go down, you wouldn’t have access to certain, potentially critical programs (such as an electonic medical records program for a healthcare facility, or a storage and sharing program that keeps track of sensitive client information for a financial services firm, etc.) but you will have access to email.

If you know what a certain server going down means for your company, you will be able to better inform your employees and clients as to what is going on, and you will be able to better prepare for the down time.

3. Prepare a “Plan B”

Just as it is important to make sure you have a plan in place for a crisis situation like a fire or an earthquake, it is important to have a plan in place for a server down situation. Although you might not think of it to begin with, having a server down is a crisis for your company- it can bring your entire business to a stand-still if you are not prepared for it.

As we noted before, because network environments can be very complex and customized to your business, you need to make sure to have a plan in place for how you are going to handle any server down situation. Your backups are also going to be extemely important in your planning as well, since they will be the main way to access all of your data.

For example, if a server goes down that houses some essential program for your business, how will you keep your business running? Do you have hard copies? What about an extra server you can use to spin up a virtual environment from your backups?

Another example is if the server goes down that hosts your email. What do you do? Email is the main form of communication these days, and a company needs it in order to keep running. Fortunately, there are ways around this crisis. Email programs like Reflexion or SpamSoap have a web interface, so if you know the URL (which your IT support should be able to provide) you can actually still use your email even when the email server is down- provided you still have an internet connection.

Not only is it really important to have a plan in place, but it is also a really good idea to test this plan. Have a “server is down” drill (much like a fire drill) so that you will know exactly how long it will take to get your business up and running again should that particular crisis occur.

The big keys to surviving a server down are information and planning. If you take a couple of hours now to make sure your network environment is set up properly, that you have great backups, and that you know exactly what will happen and how to respond when a server goes down, you will save yourself hours (potentially days) of lost productivity.

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