As a General Contractor in the digital age, you rely heavily on information technology to run your business. From VoIP phone systems and hosted email for basic communications, to cloud-based file sharing solutions for sharing design plans between engineering and on-site project managers – it’s no wonder then why operations come screeching to a halt when your IT systems go down. This article covers the threats that can bring down General Contractors’ information systems and how a business continuity plan can help mitigate these risks.
Understanding the Threats
Your IT infrastructure faces many threats that could potentially bring it down. Not all of these sources are malicious, but they all can result in a lot of lost time, resources and revenue.
- Data Breaches: A cybercriminal may use many methods to gain entry into your general contractor network. Malware, such as trojans and other viruses, can open up exploitable holes that allow them to get through. Sometimes they can break in through an old user account or through social engineering tactics. Since you may work with subcontractors and other external partners throughout projects, the people with access to your networks may be more extensive than you think.
- Distributed Denial of Service Attacks: This type of attack, also called DDOS, is when a hacker sends so many requests to your network that it completely floods it and causes downtime and crashes. The attacker typically uses a botnet, which involves hundreds or thousands of computers. Sometimes the cybercriminal uses this as a precursor to stealing data.
- Configuration Errors: If the network is not configured properly, then it may cause everything to slow down or make parts of it inaccessible. These configuration errors may occur during the initial setup or during upgrades and deployments.
- Hardware Failure: If vital hardware fails and no backups are in place, then a failure could bring the entire network down. The speed of bringing it back up is entirely dependent on whether replacements are available at the location or nearby.
- Ransomware: Ransomware is a specific type of malware that encrypts the data on the network and makes it impossible to access unless you pay the ransom amount. The hacker generally demands this in cryptocurrency due to its anonymity. You don’t have any guarantee that the hacker will actually give you the encryption key following payment, so you could end up in a situation where you can’t access critical data and you’re out that amount.
- Service Outages: If the power goes out at the data center or your Internet service provider is down, then you lose access to those resources until the service is restored.
The Impact of Network Downtime
When the network goes down, General Contractors see a number of direct and indirect impacts due to downtime, and the severity often increases based on the frequency of these outages and the ability to respond.
- Loss in Productivity: If contractors and back office staff can’t access the resources they rely on for their job duties, then they can’t get as much done in a day. Some processes take substantially longer to do by hand.
- Miss Deadlines: When you give the client a quote for a job, you base the timeline around the expectation that you always have access to your network resources. If you face multiple instances of downtime or extended periods where these solutions are not available, then it can throw off your entire schedule.
- Increased Project Costs: Your bottom line is going to feel the downtime too. Since you have to use more inefficient ways to get work done or you bring in emergency resources to address these issues, you’re paying more to get the project done.
- Frustrated Staff: Your staff is used to working in a certain way. When the systems they rely on are not accessible, they have to change their entire work day to accommodate this. In many cases, you put this technology in place to automate tedious work and make things easier on your employees. Without the software, they have to use more frustrating processes.
- Lowered Quality of Work: Your work quality also suffers as a result of downtime. Your contractors at the job site may be working on old data and fail to get client changes to the project in time. You’re faced with getting them to re-do the work or to hope that the client is the forgiving sort. When this happens multiple times throughout the project, you end up with work that doesn’t reflect your quality standards.
The Solution: A Business Continuity Plan
The concept of Business Continuity aims to proactively mitigate potential threats before they have a chance to manifest into problems and impact your bottom line. The optimal result of this is an IT infrastructure that never experiences downtime, ever.
Implementing the concept of Business Continuity into your business consists of the following aspects:
- IT Infrastructure Configuration: Ensures that hardware and software applications are properly configured for optimal performance, while reducing unnecessary loads and errors that can bring down a network.
- Redundant Connectivity: Implementing primary and secondary connections to the internet via multiple providers and mediums such as Fiber, Coax and Wireless LTE/5G to ensure always on internet access in the event of outage.
- Network Security: Seeks to protect the network from unauthorized access by cyber criminals and keeps the network clean of Malware and other malicious software that can cause downtime.
- Backup and Disaster Recovery: Disaster Recovery is an essential component of Business Continuity. It is a business’ last line of defense for hardware failure or successful cyber breaches. Having well-documented recovery plans, allow you to successfully get your business back up and running and in as little time as possible.
- Scheduled Hardware and Software Updates and Upgrades: Updating your systems regularly reduces the risk of downtime caused by aged equipment. Updating operating systems and software applications, ensures security patches are up-to-date and that software is running their latest versions for optimal performance.
There is no one-size-fits-all plan for Business Continuity. It requires careful, well-documented plans and procedures developed by an internal IT department or an outsourced Managed IT Service provider like IronEdge Group. An IT team will seek to understand your unique IT systems and how you use them to run your business everyday.
Benefits of Having a Business Continuity Plan
A business continuity plan as part of your overall IT strategy can ensure that you have a reliable network and mitigate the IT risks that you face as a General Contractor. This plan also gives you a clear approach for handling various types of downtime and other instances of network unreliability.
Not only will your business run more smoothly and experience less downtime, but in the unlikely event that you do experience downtime, your team will have clear documentation to spring into action and fix the problem. Instead of having everyone on your staff waiting around for systems to come back up or using inefficient ways of doing their tasks, your IT team will be able to get the system running efficiently and will be able to restore to your designated backups in a worse case scenario.