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Incident management is the process of identifying interruptions or threats to service and addressing them as quickly as possible. Information technology professionals respond quickly to incidents with the goal of either keeping services running, if possible, or restoring services as quickly as possible if they need to be temporarily suspended. Companies providing information technology services typically have 24-hour staffing and alert services to allow them to promptly deal with incidents, as customers may access such services at any time and they count on the reliability and stability of the services.
Information technology teams take a number of steps to reduce the risk of incidents and prevent compromises to their systems, including regularly updating software, using security systems to prevent unauthorized access, shifting loads as user numbers rise, and identifying other potential problems so they can be addressed before they get out of control. When an incident degrading the quality or stability of a service does happen, the incident is resolved as quickly as possible while people also work to identify the cause to prevent future incidents.
There are many different approaches to incident management and each company may have its own policies and systems for handling incidents. Typically, people are required to identify the problem and its scope so they can move on to resolve the problem. If the problem cannot be resolved, contacts to affected users begin to alert people to the existence of a problem and stopgap measures like moving people to different servers or providing people with alternatives are used to keep service quality as high as possible.
Resolution of incidents on information technology systems can involve the work of multiple technicians with different skillsets and experiences. Cooperative teams may have incident management plans in place with directives about the different roles people take on while handling an incident, along with target goals for time frames when it comes to handling incidents. After an incident has been handled, a meeting can be held to discuss how it was handled, to identify any issues, and to lay the groundwork for preparing for events of a similar nature in the future.
Failure to handle incident management properly can have serious consequences. Customers are less likely to stay with companies they perceive as sluggish on support issues and system problems, especially if a security threat compromises confidential information. While services are not available, costs can start rising as well; companies relying on information technology can lose money while their systems are down. Bad incident management may cost a company substantial amounts of money.