What would be the consequence if your business’ email was not accessible for 30 minutes? How about a full day? A week?
It can - and does – happen. Email outages are constantly making headlines around the world, regardless of the email provider chosen. When these outages occur, you will be one of many affected.
It’s not a question of if – it’s a question of when. You may have invested in top-notch systems to ensure your critical business infrastructure, such as emails, run efficiently. However, disasters happen. Even with the best laid plans, a system outage could still strike at any time, resulting in unscheduled system downtime.
Unscheduled system downtime. It’s a phrase that drives fear into the hearts of business owners, managers and IT administrators alike, the productivity dollars slipping away with every tick of the clock, the pressure to fix the building issue, stress likely to blow a few tops.
It’s a situation you want to avoid at all costs. And unfortunately, it is a situation that happens all-too-frequently.
An October 2018 survey from Spiceworks found that within the last 12 months, 30% of 762 IT professionals surveyed said they'd lost revenue due to a business or service outage. In that same time frame, 77% said they had experienced at least one outage, while 59% experienced 1-3 outages.
Business continuity is a significant business risk
As a cybersecurity business owner, I’ve seen the real effects of business downtime resulting from security incidents. It’s a significant business risk.
Costs vary depending on the size and nature of your business. However, research suggests unplanned downtime cost businesses across a range of sizes an average of $260,000 USD per hour in 2016, climbing from $164,000 USD an hour in 2014.
You do the math – the more hours your team are offline, and the more frequent the number of incidents, and it’s easy to envisage costs running into the millions in just a short space of time.
Add to that the impact on your business reputation, customer loyalty, staff satisfaction...
Some common side-effects of systems going down include:
- Data loss
- Wasted staff hours and diminishing satisfaction as outages wear on or reoccur; Increased turnover rates as dissatisfied employees resign and seek employment elsewhere
- Missed time-sensitive opportunities while systems are inoperational
- Decreased customer satisfaction and brand damage; Customers flooding your customer service channels (phone, email, social media) with poor feedback
- Decreased customer loyalty levels; Irate customers moving to a competitor
- Payouts under Service Level Agreements
What triggers downtime?
Downtime can result from everything from major weather events, through to crime, including cyber-attacks, equipment breakdowns and failures on behalf of third-party providers in your supply chain.
My team have supported businesses across this spectrum – weather is a big one, especially for businesses at the mercy of major storms, floods or fires, or worse still some of the awful natural disasters we’ve seen around the globe.
It might also be a cybercrime event, where a business has its data and network held for ransom, or even more traditional crimes like a business break-in that damages infrastructure. Basically, business downtime can result from a multitude of factors - most of which aren’t in your control.
What then is the best way to mitigate such risks?
Email is one of your most significant systems
When I talk about systems going down, it’s in a broad sense. All sorts of systems can fail, from your customer database to your payroll. You might even experience all electronic systems failure in the result of a natural emergency, like a blackout or flooding.
One of the most significant systems that all businesses rely on for a wide variety of tasks is email. Even in the event of a natural disaster, you need to be able to access your email server - it’s a critical business function.
From small businesses to large enterprises, email underpins many of our inquiries, conversations, organisational details, and even file sharing. To give you an idea about how reliant we are on email today, here’s a fun fact: Radicati Group in March 2018 estimated the number of email accounts worldwide at 3.8 billion — and the number of consumer and business emails sent per day in 2018 at more than 281 billion. The research firm projects the latter figure to grow to more than 333 billion by 2022.
As an email security business owner, I can’t begin to describe the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I imagine my business suffering from an email outage.
From data loss, bounced messages and unanswered urgent requests, to having to deal with employees without access to pivotal conversations and files, to being unable to communicate with clients and partners, the risks of unscheduled email disruptions can be grave.
The fact remains that without email access, communication becomes much more difficult and this, in turn, impacts business productivity and profit. Ensuring email continuity during times of unplanned downtime then becomes key in mitigating the risks associated with such turbulent periods.
How to implement a disaster recovery plan for email continuity
A disaster recovery plan for email continuity should essentially be able to provide uninterrupted email access during an outage as well as archiving, to ensure that your team can remain productive in the event of an incident, and to ensure that you are able to recover with minimal loss.
To begin with, I highly recommend businesses to utilise a multi-layered email security plan, which may mean having a specialist mail filter like MailGuard in addition to native Office 365 or Google security. One way businesses can minimise the impact of email outages is to implement an email continuity solution such as MailGuard Live.
I designed MailGuard Live to function as a fail-safe backup method that ensures your organisation never goes without full email functionality and backups. Our secondary mail system is available via the browser and offers up to the prior 60 days’ worth of messages and files, along with a fully functional email environment including receiving, reading, composing and sending, and personal address book. The auto-queuing function means no incoming or outgoing messages will be affected by your system outage. It’s all there. When your system comes back online, it’s all synced to your primary mail server.
It’s peace of mind that if your mail servers fail, you’ll always have an email solution ready to go - without any outage visibility to your customers. Plus, being a MailGuard product, you’re always covered by your existing MailGuard anti-spam, anti-virus and filtering policies.
Consider MailGuard Live with your risk management teams and let this reflection on downtime serve as an important reminder for all leaders to ensure they have defined outage processes in place.
Get the facts
Companies are spending more on cybersecurity now than ever before, but those funds aren't always targeting the most significant dangers. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect amongst many CEOs about the sources of cyber-threat.
Studies consistently show that more than 90% of cyber-attacks are perpetrated via email, yet email security is rarely the biggest item in cybersecurity budgets. If we’re going to win the battle against cybercrime we have to get real about the nature of the threat.
I’m on a mission to help business people understand cybercrime and protect their businesses from costly attacks. If you would like to learn more about the complex cybersecurity challenges facing business today, please download my e-book Surviving the Rise of Cybercrime. It’s a plain English, non-technical guide, explaining the most common threats and providing essential advice on managing risk.
You can download my e-book for free, here.
“Cybercrime is a serious and growing business risk. Building an effective cybersecurity culture within an organisation requires directors and executives to lead by example. Surviving the Rise of Cybercrime is a must-read for directors and executives across business and in government and provides strong foundations for leaders determined to address cyber risk.” - Rob Sloan, Cybersecurity Research Director, Wall Street Journal.
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Hi, I’m Craig McDonald; MailGuard CEO and cybersecurity author.
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