IT Emergency: What to Do if Your Admin Suddenly Becomes Incapacitated?

June 14, 2013

Many companies, especially SMEs will know the following scenario: One single administrator has been responsible for the installation and configuration of all PCs and for network operation. One day, the administrator has a serious accident and can no longer work or unexpectedly leaves the company. The inevitable consequence: After a short period of time, problems with the network servers will arise. Employees are unable to understand the error messages and warnings and ignore them. Then, some of the computers go down and even restarting them will not help. When going through the admin’s papers, it soon becomes obvious that he had in-depth knowledge of the IT environment, but there is hardly any documentation of the system landscape. Even passwords are not recorded.

IT documentation as a precautionary measure

What will the company do now? Picture this: They will hurriedly contact an IT support company. However, due to missing passwords and documentation, their staff will not be able to get the existing system up and running. They spend hours on trying to find out which applications are installed on which servers and where crucial company data is stored. Then they will have to consult further specialists because the company not only used standard applications but also industry-specific customized solutions that the IT service provider has never seen before. Some days or even several weeks may elapse before everything runs as smoothly as before. In the meantime, the company is unable to handle major orders as urgently required information and applications are not available. All in all, the damage and the costs incurred for the external service providers add up to a six-figure number. This can easily threaten the company’s existence. To prevent this from happening, it is essential to comply with some basic rules:

  • Create detailed documentation of system settings and parameters and make it accessible
  • Store passwords reliably and in a safe place
  • Set up a contingency plan with instructions of how to act in the event of major damage or loss
  • Set up absence management rules

It is of enormous help if comprehensive, detailed, and up-to-date documentation of the entire network with all of its hardware and software components exists. This avoids tedious reconfiguration of the routers in case of a server failure. If ever an external service provider should be required, they will easily find their way through the network if they can rely on clear and comprehensive IT documentation. This saves a lot of time and time is money!

Source (translation of a text by): German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI)

For more on this topic: Professional IT documentation with Docusnap supports contingency planning