All hands on deck: How we respond to unexpected issues


All hands on deck: How we respond to unexpected issues



You might have heard about an unexpected security vulnerability that affected several Microsoft Exchange Email Servers last month.

It certainly wasn’t a minor event, with an estimated 7,000 servers affected in the UK alone. But it was one that highlighted the importance of responsive and well-informed IT support when this type of incident emerges.

At Highlander, we undertook our own response to the Microsoft Exchange issue, which could have potentially impacted many of our customers. Proactivity and hard work kept us ahead of the issue for our customers and resolutions were discovered before anyone could fall victim to a live breach.

As the dust begins to settle on this most recent challenge, it presents us with a timely opportunity to highlight how we help to manage this type of unexpected incident for our customers.

1) Identification

The first step of any proactive response is to identify a potential issue as soon as possible – every second counts.

How this happens is of course heavily dependent on individual circumstance, but through a combination of people, process and technology we make sure that technical challenges, whether they be cybersecurity incidents or loss of service at a particular site, are alerted to us as soon as possible.

Thanks to our strong relationships with manufacturers, we are also made aware of the latest information and potential risks before they are available in the public domain.

This was very much the case with the recent Microsoft Exchange vulnerability, where we were alerted on the 3rd March, over a week before this issue was referenced publicly, and enabled us to get ahead of the vulnerability.

2) Resolution

Once we’re aware of an issue, the onus is on us to respond. The speed, and perhaps more importantly, the appropriateness of our response is a critical success factor, so it’s essential that these situations are managed proactively.

With the Microsoft Exchange issue, our support team quickly came together to establish a strategy for our response, before identifying any customers that could be potentially at risk. This included the roll out of an initial patch provided by Microsoft, which required some planned down time, followed by an additional update a few days later.

When this type of incident emerges, it really is all hands to the pump. Every member of the team is ready to weigh in and lend a hand where needed, with our engineers often working long into the night to ensure that any potential risks are averted as quickly as possible.

We were able to fully secure 40 different exchange servers in use for 26 customers within a couple of days, before following up again with a new update and enhanced tools issued by Microsoft the following week.

3) Communication

During any incident response keeping our customers fully appraised is a crucial part of the service we deliver.

We understand just how important your IT is to your business and know that you need to understand exactly what is going on, the steps we are taking to resolve the issue, and why we are taking them.

Again, this is very much a team effort, with many different touch points and updates involved throughout the process.

We take steps to ensure that every member of the team, be that engineers or accounts managers, are fully up to speed with the latest information so that they can always communicate accurately and confidently with customers. It means that at every stage of the process, you feel assured by the steps we are taking and the reason for our actions.

Ultimately, we endeavour to make sure that our customers understand what is going on and have genuine ETAs for when work will be undertaken so that they can plan accordingly.

Importantly, we’ll always make sure that we are in contact with any other customers that might be inadvertently impacted as a result of our adjusted priorities, explaining the situation, providing revised timeframes, and doing whatever we can to accommodate any new requests.

The value of great IT support

Just like your car or home insurance, comprehensive IT support can sometimes feel something you pay for, but never call on. However, just like these policies, when the unexpected does hit, the value almost always outweighs the cost.

By getting on top of potential issues early, and actioning fast and effective resolutions, we help keep your business working and avoid unwanted and disruptive downtime.

To learn more about the support services we offer, get in touch with a member of the team.