Your disaster recovery plan and your backup solutions may be impressive, but a disaster is still a disaster. Whether the outage was short or long, whether data losses were negligible or considerable, somebody somewhere will have noticed – and will be waiting for an explanation. Your stakeholders in the matter may be your manager, internal users, external customers or anybody else to whom you gave assurances of IT system levels of service. As with other crises in corporate life, there is a right and a wrong way to handle communications afterwards. Here are five mistakes that are best avoided.

  1. Being unprepared to answer questions. Whether you think it is useful for people know what happened or not, they will most likely want an explanation. Their questions will often be “why did the systems go down?”, “why didn’t you prevent this?”, and quite possibly “what about the data I lost?” Have your answers (good answers) ready before you have to confront them.
  2. Failing to understand the scope of the disaster. A system that goes down may leave customers virtually or physically stranded, lead to revenue losses for the company, a loss of credibility, and strategically important clients now placing their orders with your competitors. A technically perfect recovery does not excuse a public relations failure.
  3. Neglecting to get the legal department involved. If your broken system was supposed to be supplying a service to paying customers, they may try to get you to compensate them for any prejudice they experienced. Your legal department can guide you or step in at the appropriate moment to (hopefully) prevent disputes blowing up into court cases.
  4. Being too hasty in declaring things to be back to normal. Your database server may be running again, but other systems may need to be notified, not to mention users. Things are only normal again when all usual operations and capabilities are seen to be resumed and available.
  5. Failing to identify the root causes of the disaster. IT systems can be complex, with changes in one place causing disasters in another. But if you don’t find the real culprit, the disaster may happen again, and that will be even more difficult to explain to stakeholders.