What Does "Mission Critical" Mean?

Malcolm Tatum

"Mission critical" is a term that is used to describe situations in which some sort of disruption of activity occurs that has the potential to shut down a business operation. Essentially, if certain events should take place that involve the failure of software or equipment, or if some sort of natural disaster occurs that renders a business facility unable to function, this could have a crippling effect on the company, making it impossible for the business to pursue its mission. Much of the activity of crisis management within a company operation is devoted to identifying scenarios that could be mission critical and developing ways to minimize the impact of those events.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

One of the easiest ways to understand a mission critical situation is to consider the operation of a restaurant. Key to the ongoing operation of that business model is a fully working kitchen. In the event that the power supply to the kitchen is shut down for some reason, this means that the ovens will not function and the coolers and refrigerators will also cease to operate. As a result, the restaurant will be unable to prepare meals and will have to close. This results in a loss of revenue that could cripple the business, especially if it is not possible to reopen the restaurant for several business days.

In order to deal with mission critical situations, many businesses will prepare contingency plans that help to provide protection for the company operation. Some of these may have to do with creating procedures that allow the business to continue operating even in the face of some major equipment or software failure. For example, a business may include one or two backup servers to the main server in its network in order to maintain functionality should that main server fail. In the case of the restaurant, the inclusion of backup power sources that could be used to provide energy to the kitchen during an outage would mean not only the ability to continue serving patrons but also to protect the food inventory from spoiling.

The range of measures used to manage mission critical events will vary, based on the nature of the business and what type of events could successfully prevent the company from continuing to function. Along with measures that help to overcome matters that interrupt the day-to-day operation, the range of crisis management strategies may also include insurance protection that applies to events outside the control of the business owner, such as natural disasters. Even if the mission critical events do lead to a temporary shutdown of the facility, the contingency measures make it possible to resume activity as soon as possible and increase the chances that the business will survive the crisis.

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