Outages are inevitable in any organization. Even the most structured processes aligned with the best resources are prone to face outages. Some of these outages are planned for maintenance and are quite easy to handle and communicate. On the other hand, some others occur abruptly, affecting your operations and costing you a lot of time and money.
A well-defined communication plan can help save substantially on the cost and time taken for outage recovery. In this guide, we talk about the best practices in outage communication to help organizations improve their processes with an effective outage communication plan.
Recovery of an outage requires that multiple people in the organization are contacted, assigned tasks and allocated the resources available. If the team is not well-prepared, recovery can take too long. Processes that rely on outage-affected resources can be affected as well.
Communication with the IT team and others in the organization forms the base of an outage communication plan. Here are some of the best practices to follow to facilitate the flow of outage information across teams.
Several alert tools are available to help you pre-configure outage notifications and send them to appropriate teams at the right time so that they can act as needed. These tools also enable targeting through multiple channels with phone, SMS and email to reduce the costs associated with outage communication. Enterprises generally use tools for instant notifications and quick updates regarding the outage.
Having mobile access to tools and information helps create a rapid response to incidents. Smartphones are more accessible at the time of emergencies when it is difficult to reach the laptop. A mobile app is a great way to enable teams to act around alerts and identify causes of an outage. These apps offer several functionalities to involve other teams and people in the issue.
One of the best ways to manage outage communications is through automated escalations. These allow notifying the next available person in an alert or on-call rotation when somebody is unavailable, taking care of consistent coverage. This type of practice avoids any unwanted interruption and wrong decisions when you need immediate action during an unplanned outage.
Outage communication templates are amazing tools when an incident takes place. In the event of an IT outage, the incident response team experiences immense pressure and needs to respond on time. At such times, it is difficult to sit down with a blank page to figure out how to update the teams. This is where notification eMail templates prove to be useful.
The structure of the email for IT outage notification depends on the basis of your business, industry, niche and more. However, the general outline of the email includes some basic components. The subject of the email should mention 'Unplanned IT Outage' while the opening paragraph can include the services affected, the approximate time the outage started, the date and day of the outage and a description of ways the users are affected. Make sure you explain the issues the employees are experiencing from the outage.
Example. One of our data centers has been facing problems since about 6 am on Tuesday, March 09. Users on shared server plans may not be able to access the server during this time.
The closing paragraph of the email should explain what the organization is doing to resolve the problem. It should also mention how your employees can monitor updates or what they should expect from you about communicating future updates.
Example. Our engineers are working to resolve the problem. We will email the users once the issue has been solved.
Between the two paragraphs of the email, you can include all the information your employees need to be informed that there is an issue and somebody is working on resolving it.
For a planned server outage, good communication gives the staff enough time to be prepared. If employees can understand the reason behind the outage, you can expect proper support and co-operation.
You should send multiple messages to the staff during the days before a planned outage. The notification should include a non-technical, to-the-point explanation of the outage and the reason it is being undertaken. You should also mention the starting and end time the services will be affected, the steps to be taken after the outage is completed and the contact information of the concerned person.
Example. Please be aware that the (office) will conduct an outage of server on (date) which will affect some IT services in the (team). The outage will last from (start time) to (end time) and the IT team will advise once the services are restored.
For unplanned outages, timing is crucial. The staff needs to be notified as soon as possible to avoid any confusion and trouble. This communication message should include information about alternative systems they can use during the outage duration so that they can keep working.
The notification for unplanned system outage includes the servers affected, the condition – whether slow, totally down or intermittently down, a brief explanation of what has happened, steps in the direction of diagnosis, contact details of the concerned person and proposed resolution timeframe.
Example. The (system) has been experiencing issues since (start time). Users in (location) may currently not be able to access (system or services). The IT team is working on resolving the problem at the earliest. An update will be sent at (time). Contact the IT service desk at (phone number) for more information.
Using a templated text message helps you alert your employees about a power outage quickly when it happens. These templates can be easily repurposed with key information like contact information and useful links. You can even customize the message for each individual with these templates.
Here is a sample of power outage notification template that you can repurpose based on the industry, business and problem.
We are aware that teams are experiencing a power outage and are working on it on an urgent basis.
(List of applicable warnings)
We are really sorry for the inconvenience. Please know that the teams are working hard to get everything up and running again. We will update you in (time) with the latest information.