What Should Your System Outage Notifications Say?
System outages: they are an inevitable problem that every single IT team will encounter at some point.
Whether they come about due to technical issues, act-of-god natural disasters, or simply random human error, system outages happen to the best of us.
Though the cause of system outages is not always in your control, you can control your team’s processes for response and resolution.
Prompt and efficient outage response from the IT team or managed service provider can save organizations from costly losses in revenue, reputation, and productivity.
In previous blog posts, we’ve explored at length how important it is for all IT organizations to set up an incident manager for high-priority alerting so that on-call team members are immediately notified of outages and other incidents.
In this blog post, we take a step further and dive deeper into the specifics of what these notifications must say.
This blog post will explore the following topics:
- What Are Outage Notifications?
- What Makes A Notification Actionable?
- Automating System Outage Notifications
- How Actionable System Outage Notifications Reduce Response Time
- How to Implement Actionable Outage Notifications
What Are Outage Notifications?
Before we explore their importance and implementation, we must first establish what outage notifications are.
Outage notifications are the communications on-call IT teams receive to alert them of disruptions to service.
Based on anomalies originally detected by your monitoring or incidents reported by your ticketing tools, outage notifications promptly and reliably inform service owners of potential deviations from normal operations.
To ensure they are immediately received and acted upon, outage notifications are sent as distinguishable and persistent alerts to the mobile devices of on-call team members.
Put simply, they have to be loud enough to grab the attention and wake up your on-call team members after hours.
Outage notifications rise above traditional messages sent via email or SMS text which can get lost in crowded inboxes or accidentally dismissed as insignificant.
Worse yet, emails or texts won’t be noticed by your on-call team members at all if they leave on their mobile devices’ do-not-disturb or silent mode settings.
To mobilize response teams and reduce the likelihood of outages going unnoticed, IT teams and managed service providers invest in outage notification tools or alert managers that route incident signals from their existing monitoring and ticketing services to the on-call team’s mobile devices.
What Makes A Notification Actionable?
You have probably heard the expression “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” given as advice for how to be intentional and thoughtful in your verbal communications.
A twist on this expression specific to outage notifications would go something along the lines of “It’s not just about sending a notification, it’s about what the notification says.”
Notifications are actionable when they provide the recipient with sufficient context and clear responsibilities before stepping into action.
For your on-call recipients, these notifications will likely be the first they hear of an outage or incident.
With this in mind, the content of the notifications must be simple to read and leave as little room for ambiguity as possible.
All said and done, an outage can be a frenzied time for IT teams as they work tirelessly to identify and resolve issues.
Clear and efficient communication of the incident is important to ensure a swift and coordinated response. Here’s a breakdown of what your outage notifications should typically include for the response team to effectively address it:
1. Service Details:
Identify the affected service. This provides context about which system or application is currently facing issues.
Example: The affected service is identified as “User Authentication System.”
2. Severity Level:
Clearly state the severity level of the alert to convey the urgency and impact of the issue.
Example: The severity level of this alert is categorized as Critical.
3. Issue Description:
Provide a concise description of the problem, detailing the symptoms or issues being experienced.
Example: The current issue involves degraded server performance, leading to intermittent disruptions.
4. Assigned Team Member:
Specify the team member who is assigned to address and resolve the critical alert.
Example: The team member assigned to address this critical alert is John Smith.
5. Action Required:
Clearly state the immediate action that is required to address the issue.
Example: Immediate action is required to investigate and optimize server configurations.
6. Next Update Timing:
Indicate when the next update on the situation will be provided, ensuring ongoing communication.
Example: The next update on the situation will be provided at 10:30 AM UTC.
7. Additional Details (Optional):
Include any additional relevant information that might assist in understanding or resolving the issue.
Example: Additional details indicate that the issue is primarily affecting users in a specific geographic region.
8. Include previously executed steps
If a comparable outage has occurred previously, enrich the outage notification by incorporating a link to the post-incident review.
This review should encapsulate the proactive steps taken to resolve the issue and highlight the contributions of the engineers involved.
By doing so, the aim is to provide on-call engineers with valuable insights, empowering them to expedite issue resolution through a well-informed approach and steering clear of redundant troubleshooting.
Automating System Outage Notifications
When fortifying existing monitoring and ticketing tools with notification tools, IT teams must ensure that the automated notifications these integrations produce are actionable for the on-call team.
Teams must periodically revisit alert thresholds and fine-tune their integrations to ensure only critical notifications trigger alerts.
Further, integration engineers must run tests to confirm that the output of your ticketing and monitoring systems is being correctly populated in the body of the system outage notifications.
Integrations that are set up without factoring in alert thresholds or interoperability can lead to engineers becoming desensitized to outage notifications.
Escalation and failover systems for these notifications must be automated as well. These measures guarantee that system outage notifications remain foolproof, preventing any oversight in case of a lapse in the on-call schedule or if the initial on-call responder overlooks an alert.
Once the system is ready to go live, you must also educate your team about how the automated system outage notifications work so that they know what to expect during their on-call shifts.
How Actionable System Outage Notifications Reduce Response Time
As the world becomes increasingly dependent on digital tools across all facets of life, outages have gone from minor inconveniences to serious disruptions that can impact productivity, safety and profitability.
When your organization is grappling with an unexpected outage, every second counts towards restoring service.
Actionable system outage notifications help your IT team rise to the occasion and respond promptly to outages.
If notifications are not set up to be actionable, outages will be prolonged due to crucial time lost as your IT merely tries to figure out what they’re being messaged about and what they must do.
Outage notifications that are not content-rich will perplex your on-call team and lead them to ignore future notifications out of frustration.
In this blog, we have answered the question of “What should your system outage notifications say?” by demonstrating the importance of actionable notifications.
Actionable system outage notifications contain succinct yet informative directions for their on-call recipient.
We hope that the information in this blog helps you implement actionable system outage notifications within your organization.
Elevate Your Outage Notifications with OnPage
OnPage can elevate your system outage notifications and rise above the clutter®.
OnPage’s incident alert management system has strengthened the response capabilities of thousands of organizations with alert-until-read messages, on-call scheduling, and detailed post-incident reporting.
Supporting a versatile range of integrations that include popular monitoring, ticketing and cybersecurity solutions, OnPage is a seamless addition to your incident response and outage resolution workflows.
To learn more and request a demo, visit OnPage.com or give us a call at +1 (781) 916-0040.