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Create a Data Disaster Recovery Plan
Friday, July 1, 2016 6:35 AM

Chris Bremer, Chief Technology Officer, Dynamic Solutions International

How you respond to system downtime makes a big difference in the ultimate cost. Credit unions rely on their IT systems to perform nearly all aspects of daily operations. From electronic service delivery to customer records, credit unions cannot afford to have system downtime. Each second a credit union is offline means a possible damaged reputation, decrease in employee morale, and loss of revenue.

The exact cost of system downtime in a credit union setting varies and involves many factors. Downtime is inevitable and, ultimately, how an organization responds to downtime makes a big difference.

Planned vs. Unplanned

Planned and unplanned downtime disrupts the flow of a credit union’s operations and requires a strategy to minimize confusion and disruption among employees and members. 

Planned system downtime is mandatory in all credit union IT environments to perform updates, patches, and general system maintenance. IT departments typically schedule these downtimes to take place during low-impact operational hours, which, in a credit union setting, is often on weekends or evenings. Notifying all affected personnel of the scheduled downtime with specific instructions on the course of action to take during the downtime is imperative to minimize frustration and overall impact.

Unplanned system downtime is usually caused by a system or environmental failure.

Each department will experience interruptions to operations in a different way. Credit unions should analyze the effects on each department ahead of time, develop an action plan that speaks directly to each department, and provide instructions for proceeding with operations during downtime.

No system is fail-proof, but measures can be taken to reduce the likelihood of experiencing an unplanned system failure:

  1. Schedule regular system updates, patches, and general maintenance. When software and operating systems provide an update or patch, it typically means there is a security risk. Holes can lead to system vulnerabilities and are often the entry point for hackers. As software and OS vendors become aware of holes, patches are released to fix vulnerabilities. Additionally, improvements to software and operating systems continue to be made once the initial version has been released. Some updates are released to enhance system features and improve overall performance.
  2. Communicate regularly with vendors about developing and implementing a disaster recovery plan. This will help minimize the impact of an unplanned outage on sensitive information and ensure vital information will be restored to its original status once the system is back up and running. Working with a reliable archival data storage provider can also be part of a credit union’s preparedness and downtime mitigation plans.
  3. Implement a downtime drill to make sure everyone knows their role and communication flows clearly, limiting frustration and disruption to members. It can be difficult to knowingly shut down aspects of system operations, even to prepare staff on what to do in the case of an unplanned outage; however, not being prepared can have lasting effects beyond the 20-minute downtime drill. Downtime drills should be performed regularly, improving protocol and action plans to minimize disruptions. Additionally, downtime protocol should be included in new-hire training.

Credit unions operate in a hectic and competitive environment. Business directors, loan officers, and customer service staff need to focus efforts on customer experience, not managing an IT system failure crisis. Effective planning, partnering with vendors, and having downtime drills will help minimize the risk of losing revenue or valuable staff and damaging reputations.

Credit Union Resources, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cornerstone Credit Union League, has extensive knowledge and expertise in data disaster recovery. Our staff will gladly field any questions, concerns, and/or possible solutions for your credit union. Please contact Idrees Rafiq at, 469-385-6799, or 800-442-5762, ext. 6799.