If there is one IT failure statistic that you should take seriously, this is it.

As much as we would like to think that the IT department has everything under control, we also know that a work disruption due to some unforeseen technical problem is bound to happen at any time. And the culprit is not who you might think.

Even with 47% of IT professionals increasing their budgets and 75% of the IT budget being consumed by hardware and software purchases, according to a recent survey published by Spiceworks, the technology you have in place will likely be disrupted by your fellow co-workers. Yup, the human element is the weakest link.

Causes of IT Interruption
You may have seen stats like these before, but it is always interesting to dive deeper. The Ponemon Institute recently published a report on “The Economic Impact of IT Risk” as a result of interviews with 1,069 IT professionals and found that, when it comes to IT failures, the following were the key factors, in order of highest likelihood, to impact IT operations:

  1. Human Error
  2. IT system failure
  3. Cyber security breach or data breach/data theft
  4. Third-party IT systems or security failure
  5. Data loss from failed backup/restore
  6. Natural or manmade disasters

Human error is the single most frequent cause of business and IT disruptions, with the most significant economic impact. – Ponemon Institute

The report goes on to say that “human error is also the cause of 82 percent more reputational damage” than the IT professionals anticipated.

The Human Factor
Other studies have been done to understand the impact of human error in IT and data center operations, some saying that 75% of downtime is attributable to a human factor.

What to do with this information? First, think about ways to automate manual processes and how technology can help alleviate some of the concerns. Automated procedures, calculations, and special steps that are currently done manually can be improved in terms of speed, accuracy, and resiliency if bypassing an employee, who can be used for value-added activities instead.

It also means that you have to rethink your training programs, especially when it comes to systems security. Unsuspecting employees might click on an enticing link coming from a dubious email only to find out later that it was a Trojan horse or some other type of virus. Training on elements of social engineering, like what information to divulge over the phone and how to confirm someone’s identity can be helpful in preventing data breaches.

Rethinking Disaster Recovery
Another eye-opener should be related to your disaster recovery plan and how to account for the data presented above. If senior management at your company has been focused on being prepared for the next natural disaster, a serious conversation about where the next IT outage might come from can help set expectations and divert resources.

When it comes to funding your disaster recovery initiative, the human element might also help get the whole team on the same page. If the company is outside an area of high incidence of natural disasters, it is not an excuse to skimp on DR technology. In fact, natural disasters as a cause of downtime or disruption to operations comes last in all surveys related to the subject.

As the Ponemon Institute survey shows, IT fails because of the people operating it and because of hardware and software problems. Hard drives have a limited life span. Memory modules can leak and power systems may stop functioning. The higher the number of computers and servers under one roof, the highest the likelihood some hardware will fail. How you react to this incident and prevent business interruption is what is important.

The takeaway is this: an IT failure will happen whether you want it or not, so be ready with the processes and technology in place to prevent it from damaging your business.