Our 4 top tips for disaster recovery this winter

Every year we are confronted by news reports of severe disruption caused by the weather. Flooding, snow and fog all lead to serious problems for UK businesses, from staff stranded due to grounded flights and cancelled trains, to water damage to infrastructure and premises. Indeed one week of bad weather in early 2013 was estimated to have cost the UK over £318 million in lost productivity.

Smart companies are not only aware of the trouble adverse conditions can cause them, but are well prepared for it. They know that employees may be unavailable with little notice and that the systems they rely on to work and communicate can be put out of action through no fault of their own, or their supplier. These companies have robust contingency plans that see them safely through winter. And, crucially, these are the companies that are likely to gain business, rather than lose it, when the weather is bad.

Here are four ways that you can avoid the worst this winter:

Many businesses will be tempted to stay with their existing telecoms provider for convenience, but may not realise that they are missing out on improved cost­efficiency and productivity gains by switching to a new provider.

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1. Manage the staff shortage

The aforementioned week of bad weather in 2013 led to severe staff shortages, with approximately 18% of people across the country unable to make it into work. But simply knowing that business (particularly retail) will suffer from unavailable staff is not enough. Companies need to know how to mitigate against the weather and avoid substantial financial loss.

Communications providers now offer services to manage inbound call routing, that enable staff to answer the phone wherever they are. So one snow day doesn’t have to lead to a glut of lost sales, as callers go to voicemail with no staff to answer the phone and customers go elsewhere. Instead providers can set up an immediate redirect for each line to an alternative destination, such as a mobile. Suddenly businesses can operate with an agile workforce, making and receiving calls and using cloud technology to access files, folders, contacts and applications, as if in the office

2. Prevention planning

The trick to any disaster plan is working out what to do before the event, not after it. A good telecommunications provider will meet with a business’s IT department to discuss what the priority systems are prior to installation, ensuring the right choices can be made when selecting connectivity types and consideration for resiliency can be made during the project design phases.

This is all the more important for businesses with multiple offices, who by their sheer scale are more likely to have multiple employees affected by weather and transport chaos in multiple locations.

3. Train all staff

Modern communications technologies mean that data and voice services can be accessible wherever there is an internet connection, and on any device.

But the responsibility to keep businesses going does not entirely lie with the provider. Employees need to know how remote systems operate and who to contact for support when needed.

Effective training on how to access tools remotely is a must for companies looking to put in place a workable disaster recovery plan – particularly if staff are not home workers to begin with.

Most cloud for business systems can be easily accessed via a web portal. But if employees don’t know where the portal is or what to do when they get there, businesses will be no better off than if remote working provisions had not been made.

4. Choose your partner wisely

If your business is relying on connectivity to run its business applications or telephony, you are open to risk. Downtime can last longer on legacy systems or where providers are not governed by a service level agreement to get your business up and running again.

The only way to guarantee reliable connectivity during the winter is by working with a provider that can offer stringent service level agreements should the worst happen, but ideally one that can work with you to put in place the technologies to mitigate the impact on your workforce and customers before it does.

The majority of technologies to consider for increased resilience and business continuity are now cloud-based. De-centralising your core communications infrastructure in the cloud is a simple and effective way to reduce the impact of any disruption at your office locations. Solutions such as inbound call management, or fully hosted phone systems with enhanced features that support remote working can offer businesses a simple way to avoid adverse weather conditions negatively impacting upon sales.

With modern communications solutions and a mobile-enabled workforce, businesses need not suffer this winter.

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27 November 2015 | Cem Ahmet

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The views in this article are the personal views of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Gamma.