Preventing Human-Caused IT Disasters

While most companies spend tremendous resources building in redundancy to ensure that the "hard" aspects of their network are reliable, it is easy to overlook the "soft," or human, element of a network and the related computer systems. Ironically, this element is often the most common cause of unintentional network downtime. Below is an excerpt from Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Small Businesses by Donna R. Childs, which discusses early steps on planning for the common human error.

Human error is, by far, the most common and most frequent cause of business disasters. By definition, human errors are unintentional. Since they occur randomly, I hope that the overall impact on your business operations will be negligible. Each of us has had the experience of developing a new document by revising an older document or by using a template. When we finish our work and hit the "save" button, we immediately realize that we wrote over an old document that we will need again in the future. The same is true when we reorganize our files to reduce clutter and unintentionally delete a whole folder of important documents.

Unfortunately, there is no single, simple solution. We have to expect that human errors will be made, and be able to protect our businesses from ourselves to the extent possible. Managers often hope that their employees will be careful with important files, and when they inadvertently delete a file, they hope a backup file exists. Try to keep track of these events. If you do so, you will realize that these errors occur with greater frequency than you realize. And the corrective action taken is more often less than satisfactory. Frequently, the loss of a file is either not realized, or simply never reported, until someone runs nervously through the company asking if anyone still has a copy of a particular file. By that time, it is usually much too late to recover this file from backup systems and it would require more time to retrieve the deleted file than to create a new one. IT managers often have business people making requests of them such as, "could you see if we still have a backup file of the presentation we gave to our most important client last year? I don't remember the name of the document, but I wrote it in the first quarter of the year." This is not an efficient use of anyone's time, and as a small business owner or manager, you know that experienced IT professionals are too expensive to be used in this manner; you have too many other important tasks for them!

Small businesses need a solution that is a combination of user-training and a backup mechanism from which users can recover unintentionally deleted files themselves. It helps both the users and the IT staff save time because the users no longer have to request the IT staff to recover files for them. And as a small business owner, you do not need to hire someone to operate the backup system in the event your staff needs to retrieve files.


From Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Small Businesses by Donna R. Childs. Copyright 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.