IT outage communications: A Q&A with Plexus Management
When Plexus Management Group – a Westwood, MA-based consulting service and practice management organization for the medical industry – developed a new disaster management plan, they decided to turn to Everbridge to help automate a wide-range of operational and emergency communications. As a growing company with offices and consultants around the country, as well as several client-facing software applications, Plexus knew it was important to effectively communicate vital information to employees and customers in case of a crisis, IT incident or system outage.
But the difference between having an “understanding” of the process, versus actually taking “action” during a critical event, can be significant and daunting. So the question is, when Plexus’ main IT server went down in early February, and stayed down for over a 48-hour period, was the company able to effectively use Everbridge to communicate with and keep their key stakeholders calm, informed and productive? We sat down with Kristen Porell, Operations Project Coordinator at Plexus Management, to find out. Read on below for our Q&A to see how the company used Everbridge for effective IT incident response and communications.
Q) Kristen, before we discuss the IT incident, can you tell us about some of the general critical communication challenges that you face on a regular basis?
KP: Well, before Everbridge, we really had no way to communicate with everybody all at once, and we really needed something for the disaster recovery plan. I worked in a school before this, and we used a system similar to Everbridge to communicate with the families, so I understood the importance of using a system to reach multiple groups, across all of their devices.
When we originally purchased Everbridge, we knew it would be important for big emergencies, but then, all of a sudden, winter comes and we realize that we really had never communicated the need to close the office before, and now the company has grown exponentially. It started out probably 15 years ago, and there were only about 30 employees. Now there’s almost 200 at this office in Westwood, and then we have offices all over. That means the communication challenges are there, but this is exactly the type of situation where we can use Everbridge to help.
So, we really started using it last year for weather— if the office was closed, or just making sure people understood that, “Yes, we are open and you can come in two hours late,” or, “We’re open for business as usual…If you’re not coming in, let your manager know,” things like that.
Q) But, then you realized there were other types of operational events to utilize Everbridge for? Can you tell us about this recent IT outage?
KP: Well, our main server went down, and we didn’t have back up. So it was a disaster. It was down for almost 48 hours. Some parts of the office had internet and some didn’t, so we had to tell everybody right away about the situation. Then, we also have clients in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and other locations who use our billing system, and our billing system was down for them too.
Q) Tell us more about your IT outage communications process. How did you use the Everbridge system to let people know about the outage? Was it helpful to have another, independent way to reach them?
KP: At first, we needed to send a huge message to everybody saying that the Westwood office was down – no internet, nothing. We sent it to every personal email, work email and cellphone, and we texted it just to make sure everybody knew the situation. We kept giving them updates, so everybody was kept in the loop. Then, the next day, before everyone got to work, we let them know that the system was still down, so they should be prepared to do other work that did not involve the internet or the billing system.
It was frustrating for everybody, but at least I think communicating via Everbridge during the outage made it better. Everybody understood it and knew that we were on it, we were fixing it, and what the next step was. They trusted that we would let them know when the IT team had resolved the situation.
I think it made a big difference in the morale of our people, because people get so frustrated when the internet’s down and the billing is down – when all the systems are down. It definitely made everyone feel better because they understood what was happening. It wasn’t like everyone was just sitting there. Plus, IT wasn’t getting bombarded with phone calls saying “What’s going on?” Instead, they could focus on fixing the problem, and not having to explain it to everybody over and over.
Q) Did you also communicate with your clients about the IT outage?
KP: Yes. We have some clients in the Everbridge system who use our billing system and other applications impacted by the outage. We were able to communicate with anyone who was using any of the software, as well as other IT-enabled equipment. We have a lot of scanners around – clients scan in documents that are sent here for billing purposes. We have tons of scanners all over for hospitals and for different medical practices, and we have people doing scheduling at different offices, as well. If these scanners were not working, we were able to communicate with them through Everbridge.
It was very helpful to connect with our customers using Everbridge to let them know that our system was down, but to be patient. The level of transparency was appreciated by both our employees and customers, and we’re now even more confident that we can handle the next IT outage just as seamlessly the next time that it happens.
For more information on Plexus Management, visit their website at http://www.plexusmg.com/.