David Papp Blog

Fireproofing versus Firefighting: You Must Proactively Maintain Your IT Systems And Stop Being a Firefighter

In 2004, three years after “9/11”, local, state and federal US representatives met as part of a planning exercise to assess emergency disaster management abilities should a major hurricane strike the coastal areas of Louisiana. The exercise, named “Hurricane Pam”, considered the problems and response abilities should a Category 5 Hurricane strike. The representatives found multiple shortcomings. Communication infrastructure was poor. Transportation capacity compared to population needs was markedly limited. Health and rescue services were inadequate to handle anticipated human services. At the conclusion of the exercise, plans were devised and members accepted responsibilities in an effort to correct these deficiencies. However, a year later, when Hurricane Katrina struck, unfortunately not enough had been accomplished. Thousands of lives were lost or affected as a result of a lack of implementation. When the imagined crisis became a reality, preventative measures had been neglected, and the response to the catastrophe was far from acceptable.

While lives are rarely at stake for most organizations, a lack of preparedness and prevention is all too common. Maintenance of IT systems is ignored or neglected. Adoption of better technologies and tools does not happen due to financial costs or a lack of understanding. As a result, IT systems suffer more-frequent and more-significant problems over time, demanding immediate attention from IT personnel. In the process, business continuity is disrupted, revenues and customers are lost, and efforts are used inefficiently in attending to disaster management. Choosing to be proactive and adopt preventative measures is a simple solution that effectively minimizes these unwanted developments.

Information technology systems are a necessary component of organizations and businesses today. You need a smart approach to installing an effective IT infrastructure with proper technologies and tools as well as the importance of having the right IT professionals. Also, a commitment to ongoing monitoring of IT systems is mandatory if success is the goal in a competitive environment. Periodic assessments, oversight of project completions, alignment of goals between IT and the organization, and the development of an internal knowledge base are examples of this commitment. In this way, resource investments can be used wisely and most effectively.

Fireproofing your information technology system is no different than reducing risk in other areas of an organization. Organizations are always more productive and efficient when unnecessary stress is absent. For organizations that are in a cycle of putting out fire after fire, not only is productivity affected by interruptions in business continuity, but it is also hindered because of the stressful pressure of the situation. By being proactive within your organization, you can reduce the times of stress experienced and maximize the fluency of business operations. This does not require you to understand every single aspect of your IT system; it requires only open dialogue, good communications, and a commitment to establishing smart IT processes and procedures. With these attitudes in place, organizational success becomes more likely. After all, IT should be an asset, not a liability, for your organization. Stop running from fire to fire, and make the choice to invest in good IT practices.

For more information, see my book www.ITSurvivalGuideBook.com

15 thoughts on “Fireproofing versus Firefighting: You Must Proactively Maintain Your IT Systems And Stop Being a Firefighter”

  1. So you are saying that the reason more lives were lost in Hurricane Katrina is because we did not take Exercise Pam serious enough? I can believe that. You are absolutely true. If you take the time to be pro active, it helps in stressful situations along with communication and commitment. I work at a shoe store where we keep all of our shoes on the floor and with back to school sales around the corner its highly important that we be proactive and fix small things, practice Scenarios before the crowd floods the store. and communicate. It doesn’t prevent everything bad from happening but it does make a huge difference.

  2. Great post about being proactive to prevent necessary struggles. I know it is wise to always back up your information on your computer, that way if a fire, or hurricane destroy your computer, your information will still be saved. I think a great way to go about doing this, is through dropbox.

  3. This article is great and I wish every IT that I have worked with would read it. It’s a shame that almost all guys in the IT field are what you call fire fighters rather than fire proofers. There isn’t ever a problem until it’s too late. Although people tend to hate the fireproofers because it’s always a hassle to be constantly updating and maintaining but it’s a necessary evil.

  4. Being in IT as long as I have it is amazing to me that most IT departments still just apply band aides to everything instead of just ripping it off and letting the infrastructure properly heal and grow to the next level. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from bosses, don’t update that package it will break all of X. Yeah the update they want me to avoid closes serious security issues. I have been to companies whose networks had systems running in a production internet accessible that had not been updated in well over a year, the worst on record for me was almost 4 years without a single update.

    I wish this was something mentor’s and teacher’s would actually teach the next generation of IT pro’s. Prevent the issue before it comes up is the only way to keep a solid and secure as possible environment.

    • It sounds like the updates they want you to avoid are because they are too afraid of change. The “bosses” would rather have some security loopholes, than learn something new or acclimatize to a different way of doing things. That must be incredibly frustrating for you, especially when something goes wrong and you know a new update you were told to avoid would have prevented the problem.

  5. I think it’s all about clouding now. Physical backups are great. Still, they remain physical. It is capital to have at least a couple of backups on hand in case something bad happens.

    Firefighters are essentials, but fireproofers can make them obsolete so that they are used as less as possible.

    • Being proactive is very useful in lots of things. Aside from ignorance about the value of fireproofing IT systems, I agree that there’s lots of office politics involved which make fireproofing more challenging. It’s sad it has to take a big disaster before people wisen up and work on preventing IT fiascos.

  6. Great article. I’ve been recently working on an IT strategy for my organization and it’s very important that a sound disaster recovery plan is implemented.

    It’s proven that prevention actually saves companies 4 times of recovery.

  7. Proactivity in IT is the best way to keep the hair on your head where it belongs. The stress that comes from firefighting is one of the primary reasons people leave the field due to burnout. The unfortunate part is that so many companies don’t understand that IT can be stable if provided with the time and resources to perform preventative maintenance.

  8. I think most companies don’t improve their IT systems because they do no fully understand the risks they are facing. If they would only do a proper assessment of the situation and see the benefits of being able to fireproof their systems they would be more open minded. They would realize that the costs are always much, much smaller than having to go through an unexpected event unprepared. It’s always cheaper to prevent than to repair.

  9. Well I wonder if it is human nature or laziness that allows many of us to wait for something to happen and then take action. So like David said I totally agree with fireproofing because why not be two steps ahead rather than waiting for the worst to happen.

  10. A business owner will find themselves behind the ball when they are being reactionary. I like this post because it made me think about a lot when it comes to my IT system. I cannot afford to lose revenues due to something like this. I will be looking at becoming a firefighter really soon.

  11. There is really no harm in being proactive. I hope more and more companies would think of that since, natural calamaties and mishaps may always happen into an organization, including the IT field which may incur loss if not properly handled and prepared for. Data in the IT field is as important as the people handling it so companies should also prepare backup plans and alternatives for this as well.

  12. Haha. That is so true, because if you don’t do that, you could actually find yourself becoming a firefighter (metaphorically). I would suggest you doing as the article says because it’s very important and it’s essential when it comes to saving your system from breaking down. It’s a serious matter sometimes.

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