Take the stress out of flying high

I’m terrified of flying.

It’s a strange fear, as I’ve taken to the skies scores of times in my short life. I know the ins and outs of checking in, boarding; the noises you should expect when the plane is heading up to the runway – and I have my answers ready to questions asked every time I sit in the exit row.

You would think, by now, I’d be fine. But no. It’s the turbulence that gets me. And maybe a little too much Air Crash Investigation.

So, recently, in an attempt to extinguish my fear, I’ve been reading up on aviation safety. The line everyone uses when you mention a fear of flying is always, “but air travel is safer than travelling by car”. The statistics tell me they’re right. Facts should trump fear.

The amount of testing these massive pieces of machinery go through is baffling. There is a test for everything. Aircraft are given weight tests to make sure they can accommodate their hypothetical maximum weight – and then another 50%; weather tests; tests so planes can land with only one engine, electrical malfunction tests.

Aircraft engineers are so meticulous they dream up every scenario they could ever envisage happening – and then a few more – to make sure planes are as safe as they could ever possibly be.

Your company isn’t transporting anyone across half a country (and I would hope it has better food), but there’s a parallel here. How many companies fail to do this same sort of stress testing on their own tech systems?

This isn’t an outlandish idea. The financial regulators of several countries do stress tests to make sure banks are at a level where they can survive a massive financial shock. Why is it so crazy that you would do the same thing for your company’s technical systems?

A lot of business owners are like me, in the sense they don’t know a lot about how the mechanics of an aircraft work. They just know the IT system is over there, with the IT manager doing its thing. Then, they hear all about these catastrophes happening (plane crashes) and they freak out. They run to the IT manager saying, “Is this going to happen to us?”

And you know what? Often, you’re more exposed to a catastrophe than you think. And it’s not like it can’t happen. Hackers target small businesses for financial information all the time.

Get involved. If you’re scared of being attacked, then you need to read up on how your IT system works. Talk with your manager and be prepared. And if you don’t have a system for securing your company, then get one.

For all those other companies which have robust IT systems, are you stress testing them? If it’s good enough for an aircraft, it should be good enough for a small company which holds onto customers’ financial data.

The chance your systems could ever be compromised might be small. But for the pain of a few stress tests, you can buy yourself – and your customers and clients – peace of mind.

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