Mission critical systems
Any process, equipment, component, or software essential to the operation or survival of an organization is considered a mission-critical system. The failure or interruption of such a system would significantly affect other operations.
For something to be regarded as mission-critical, it needs to fulfill any one of the following conditions:
- Critical applications and business functions have been affected
- Critical research and/or information has been compromised
- Human safety, life, or wellbeing is at risk
- The entity has experienced the loss of or access to data
- The parties affected by the system failure are subject to legal, financial, or regulatory repercussions
- The reputation of the organization or individual has been adversely affected
When a mission-critical system becomes necessary for the smooth day-to-day operations of a business, it becomes a business-critical system. When it fails or gets interrupted, it can result in customer disgruntlement, financial losses, and a significant productivity reduction.
The main difference between a mission-critical and a business-critical system lies in the overall impact an outage would have on the affected entities. When mission-critical systems fail, the results translate to failure in a goal (mission) -oriented activity such as the delivery of utilities, saving of lives, prevention of injuries, etc.
On the other hand, when business-critical systems fail, the impact is economic. For instance, breached contracts and loss of customers may result from the outage of such a system.
Recognizing mission-critical systems plays an important role in developing appropriate measures for risk identification, assessment, and control. Managing critical systems takes an iterative four-step approach which involves:
- The identification of all the systems that are integral to an organization
- Mapping the relationships between these systems and identifying the risks based on their interactions
- Integrating all business processes and systems with the existing security standards on an ongoing basis
- Monitoring these systems in real-time to analyze all real and potential risks
A few common examples of mission-critical systems include:
- Aircraft and railway control systems
- Database servers and data centers
- Electric power distribution systems
- First-responder communication systems
- Water treatment facility pumps