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What is technology resilience?

Your company's security and success rate depends on your technology resilience. So let's discuss what it means, its stages and best practices.
Daniel Zacharias

Zia Syed

October 5, 2023
Weathering tech disruptions with resilience

Can you imagine running a business without any tech? It doesn’t matter how you look at it, doing that feels impossible. In today’s day and age, all the hardware and software is there to support critical business operations. IT systems prioritize service availability and maintain always-on capabilities. Servers, storage systems, and applications all aim at stability.

In short, digital technology has become essential to building and growing a company, regardless of industry. But this vital nature of tech also means that you could see your operations compromised should something happen to your digital infrastructure.  After all, the recent swath of cybersecurity-related incidents reminds us that no one is safe. 

In that context, it’s important to highlight that your safety, security, and success rate will depend on your technology resilience. So let’s discuss what this means, its key stages and best practices — and what you can do to improve your odds.

Defining technology resilience

Malware, ransomware and plenty of other cybersecurity threats are floating around, ready to do damage. From stealing sensitive data to disrupting systems and generating outages, there’s plenty malicious software can do to hurt your business. Technology resilience is your hardware’s and software’s ability to absorb such stress.

In other words, it’s the measure of your organization’s capacity to continue functioning through software and hardware failures and disruptions in underlying systems. It also covers the ability to mitigate issues and recover from outages. Obviously, its ultimate goal is to maintain a satisfactory level of service. So what are the basic characteristics of this type of resilience?

  1. Smooth day-to-day operations.
  2. High availability of services.
  3. Constant access for both internal and external users.
  4. Quick management of demand increases.

So how do you achieve all this? Step by step, as usual. It’s a thing of evolving complexity and maturity.

The key stages of keeping your tech resilient

The basic tech resilience approach is the ad hoc method, where you address the issues as they appear. That’s not precisely the best way to go around it, as you’ll always be playing defense while staying in a reactive stance. While there are some intermediate approaches, the final level is inherent resilience by design, where you create all the parts of your system to weather virtually any storm.

With that ultimate method, your goal won’t just be about ensuring business continuity through reactive measures but rather to reduce the number of potential attacks to a minimum while dramatically mitigating their effect should they ever take place. 

Under that light, tech resilience becomes a must for companies of all sizes that want to operate more safely in today’s context. If you want to make your system sufficiently robust to operate at all times, you’ll want to follow these five steps.

1. Keep your eyes open

You won’t achieve much unless you pay attention. Therefore, stage one of this journey is awareness. Stay fully conscious of your technology requirements and the associated risks. Determine business-critical systems and focus on your team’s ability to restore them if a problem occurs. Identify weak spots, establish robust procedures to operate your platforms, and assess your team’s security literacy. 

The basic idea of this initial stage is to perceive and judge before investing in any drastic change. You should inform your tech resilience strategy with data encompassing where you’re right now and we’re you ideally need to be. This will help you reduce costs without losing quality.

2. Don’t get ready, stay ready

The second pillar of this strategy is preparedness. The trick is to anticipate potential changes that might affect your operations and act accordingly. For example, recent years have seen a substantial shift towards remote work. While this isn’t exactly a threat in itself, it’s something that can make your operations more vulnerable to attacks, as it multiplies the attack surface and the connected nodes. 

A tech resilient company would have anticipated this shift and adapted its security strategy accordingly. For instance, it might have established remote work protocols surrounding access levels, security credentials, and company-mandated security software for each remote worker’s terminal. 

As you might have noticed, being prepared for what’s to come means being on the loop with what’s happening in the world of cybersecurity and technology. Reading news, updating your security knowledge on a frequent basis and maintaining relationships with other business people all become key tasks. 

That’s especially true when it comes to building a human network with other leaders. The more partners you have, the better you’ll be able to observe how they’re preparing for the next big shift. Don’t stay trapped in an echo chamber. Get connected and inform your security decisions with the data of what’s happening all around you. 

3. Prioritize safety and security

As you can already tell, technology resilience puts great emphasis on security. That’s hardly surprising. The ever-evolving concerns around your digital assets aren’t going to go away anytime soon.

Your mission is to address protection and prevention in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Opt for automated, managed solutions that’ll enable you to monitor your environment for suspicious activity.

Take decisive action but make sure you also design with flexibility in mind. Having multiple alternative suppliers or service providers will ensure your operations won’t halt should one of them gets compromised. If we take data storage as an example, we can suggest adopting a multi-cloud strategy.

4. Assess your recovery response 

The above are preventive measures. If, however, disaster does strike, your organization will have to enter the recovery stage. How fast and efficient are you able to do this? There’s only one way to know beforehand — testing your disaster recovery plan before any actual issues occur. Of course, I’m taking for granted that you do have such a plan already (if you don’t, then coming up with one is your first priority to elevate your tech resilience).

You should test your plan comprehensively, aiming at stressing different vulnerabilities to see how well the system resists. Also, you need to analyze how backup systems work, how your team reacts to the issue, and calculate the associated costs (in terms of money but also in terms of potential consequences). 

Whichever path you choose, remember that the ultimate goal is to rapidly shift from defense to growth.

5. Review, review, review

Even if your team has successfully gone through the previous four steps, that’s no reason to rest on your collective laurels. The review stage, a crucial part of technology resilience, isn’t a one-off thing. You need to frequently assess your tech resilience to determine whether you need to improve some of its aspects.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are there ways to prevent attacks you might have missed so far?
  • Is there anything that can enhance your recovery response?
  • Is there any room for improvement or a new tech worth investing in?
  • Should you increase or decrease focus on certain areas?

As you can see, it’s all very much a learning process. For maximum success, everyone in your team should participate.

How does this work in real life?

Let’s get into a practical example to understand how all this works. Let’s say there’s an Amazon Web Services outage (this isn’t a hypothetical scenario. It happened in 2014 as well as in 2021). As a consequence, services and platforms of all sizes are affected by it and can offer their services. Yet, Netflix is still up and running, regardless of the fact that it relies on AWS. How is this possible?

Netflix uses a practice called “Chaos engineering” to test its systems and evaluate their response in the face of disruptions. Leveraging a tool called “Chaos monkey”, Netflix engineers intentionally disrupt parts of their systems to test resilience and identify weak spots. The company does this on a regular basis, ensuring that their disaster recovery plan is constantly improving and providing better performance. 

Basically, that’s precisely what happened in response to the AWS outage: Netflix’s technology resilience strategy (informed by chaos engineering) kicked into action. It swiftly rerouted traffic and resources to unaffected regions, minimizing service disruption. That comes to show the importance of being resilient, prepared, and diligent. 

Some best practices to consider

As usual, we have a few additional tricks up our sleeve that are likely to improve your technology resilience.

Make data actionable. This is particularly important for network observability info. Collect, correlate, and visualize. This can help you establish patterns and predict outcomes.

Consider demand emergencies. Don’t allow your resources to become scarce or your users won’t be able to use your services. Build a scalable environment that can handle a surge in traffic. 

Leverage automation. Implementing automated solutions leads to the reduction of manual effort and the potential elimination of human error. Automation can help you avoid critical situations and recurring issues.

Introduce a flat hierarchy. Remove lone wolf operators and the resulting bottlenecks. The pooling of critical knowledge is never good. Break down silos and align your team behind a single security approach to work. 

Looking into the future

Apps, infrastructure components, and externally sourced services are all prone to suffering attacks and outages. As such disruptions are never good for your business, it’s important to build and maintain technology resilience. The five stages of this process are awareness, preparedness, protection, recovery, and review.

Continuous monitoring, control, detection, and security provisions are all ways to ensure swift recovery. Remember that this is a collective effort.

Take your time to explore different development methodologies and this will be amply rewarded. Building resilience will help you enhance financial stability, ensure user satisfaction, and prepare for the future.

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