6 Essential Risk Mitigation Strategies for Your Business

By: Ernest Sampera on March 5, 2020

Today’s disruptive economic and technological landscapes are defined by risk. Between the rapid pace of innovation and ever-shifting market demands, successful organizations set themselves apart with their ability to navigate risk and ensure business continuity without compromising their core services. Strong risk mitigation strategies are essential to that success.

What is Risk Mitigation?

In a definitional sense, risk mitigation is the process of implementing strategies and contingencies for minimizing an organization’s exposure to risk, both by reducing the likelihood of an incident and curtailing the impact when one does occur. Every business has plans in place to manage risks, but these strategies have become far more complex in today’s increasingly digital landscape. Losing access to essential data, systems, or services could leave an organization reeling and potentially cost them substantial amounts of revenue.

Risk mitigation strategies assess a company from top to bottom to identify potential threats and risk vectors. This includes both internal and external threats that could compromise business continuity. Some risks are firmly within an organization’s ability to control, such as the controls they implement to manage secure data. Others represent more uncontrollable dangers, such as a hurricane or flood. The nature of the threat will determine how the organization plans to reduce the likelihood of being impacted by the risk it poses (such as locating offices or backup systems outside flood zones) or minimize the consequences of that event (such as establishing redundancies with low recovery time objectives [RTOs]).

Why Do You Need a Risk Mitigation Strategy?

Losing access to key systems and data can be disastrous for any company. Whether it’s lost revenue, missed opportunities, or brand damage, the potential fallout from failing to account for risk is something every organization should work hard to avoid. The best way to address a threat is through careful preparation. If a company doesn’t fully identify what risks it faces and how those risks could impact business operations, it will be caught flat-footed when something goes wrong.

Designing risk mitigation strategies is the best way to prepare for the worst. These plans not only help companies identify key threats, but also force them to put processes and procedures in place that educate people about the nature of the risk and how to take actions to minimize its likelihood. This is especially important for today’s data centers, which sit at the intersection of any organization’s physical and digital ecosystems. As the primary point of contact between an organization and its customers and vendors, the data center is central to business models that rely on data collection and analysis, cloud computing services, and digital content delivery.

6 Essential Risk Mitigation Strategies

There are a few key risk areas that every organization should consider when developing risk mitigation strategies for business continuity involving their data center.

1. Natural Disaster

The threat of natural disaster looms large in the minds of many companies and is still the first thing many of them think of when using the term “disaster recovery plan.” Their concern is hardly misplaced, however. Take, for instance, the impact Hurricane Harvey had on many Houston businesses when the storm dumped a whopping 52 inches of rain on the city in 2017. Small companies that didn’t have a backup solution in place found their servers submerged by floodwater, potentially wiping out irreplaceable data that was essential to their business. Having a reliable data backup plan like Houston Methodist Hospital may not be able to prevent a hurricane from striking, but it does ensure that the damage caused by that disaster won’t have a long-term impact on data availability or business operations.

2. Infrastructure Disruption

In many natural disaster situations, the real danger comes not from the event itself, but rather from the loss of power to critical infrastructure. This is especially challenging in regions with outdated or overburdened power grids. And just having a data center with backup power might not be sufficient to address the risk of an outage if there’s a chance the surrounding infrastructure could make reaching the facility (due to flooded roads or damaged bridges, for instance) difficult or impossible. Companies also need to think about the resilience of the facilities housing their assets. Do they have key physical redundancies in place to ensure that if a few critical systems go down, the facility can stay up and running? By identifying these potential risks, organizations can establish business continuity processes, disaster recovery plans, and backup location strategies to ensure data availability in the worst of circumstances.

3. Human Error

Sometimes (oftentimes, in fact) people make mistakes. Organizations can take exhaustive steps to mitigate risks, but if they don’t take the time to think about how to communicate those processes to their employees, they greatly increase the likelihood of an incident due to ignorance, oversight, or accident. Once a risk assessment has identified threats and put controls in place to minimize them, it’s critical to make people aware of those controls and provide sufficient education and training to keep everyone up to date on emergent threats and changing circumstances.

4. Cyberattack

As organizations become more reliant upon their IT networks to deliver services and manage data, they must increasingly take the risk of cyberattacks into account. These attacks not only have the potential to compromise sensitive data, resulting in embarrassing and costly breaches, but they can also cripple essential operations, making it impossible for a company to do business. Today’s customers are entrusting companies with more and more of their private information, which makes it even more important for those companies to consider what risks could impact their networks and how to implement strategies to minimize data exposure and keep sensitive data secure through risk mitigation techniques.

5. Compliance

The broad range of compliance standards that provide guidelines on how organizations should manage their data and security controls play an important role in mitigating risk. They also represent a potential source of risk should a company find itself or one of its vendors out of compliance. Failing to meet these standards could expose an organization to legal action or cause it to lose out on business opportunities. Thanks to compliance standards like SSAE 18, which holds organizations accountable for the compliance status of their vendors, it’s important to take compliance into consideration when conducting a risk assessment and using risk mitigation techniques.

6. Physical Security

While it may not get quite as much attention as cybersecurity, physical access and security still represents a critical risk vector for any organization. Having risk mitigation strategies in place that establish how data should be handled or how people should respond to a breach is certainly important, but knowing who is authorized to enter a data center and access physical hardware is just as crucial. Limiting access is a fundamental step in risk mitigation because every additional person granted authorization creates another potential risk vector over time. Thanks to innovative technology like vXchnge’s award-winning in\site intelligent monitoring platform, managing access to IT assets is easier than ever before, providing companies with flexibility that doesn’t compromise security or business continuity.

Risk mitigation strategies should be one of the core priorities for any organization, especially for companies that deliver products and services over their IT networks. Colocation data centers have the resources and capabilities to manage risk effectively, granting customers control over their operations while taking care of many of the infrastructure and security aspects of risk mitigation. While every organization should utilize risk mitigation techniques that address their unique business needs, building and implementing a plan through a state-of-the-art data center makes it easier to deliver on their business continuity goals.

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