Have you ever wondered what would happen if your business had a catastrophic IT or voice service failure? Do you know if your company even has a disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place for any IT or voice services if a failure was to happen?
A disaster recovery plan details how your organisation can quickly resume normal operations during an unexpected crisis. Your company probably already has some protocols in place for your IT infrastructure. These often include the daily back-up of data and several written procedures to restore failed pieces of hardware.
However, vague disaster recovery guidelines aren’t enough – a fact that the coronavirus pandemic revealed. The drastic impacts of COVID-19 revealed that many
Ultimately, COVID-19 shone a spotlight on the importance of business continuity planning. If you had difficulties with crisis management during the height of the pandemic, that means your disaster recovery strategy needs more work.
Communications in Business Continuity
One of the cornerstones of an effective disaster recovery plan is seamless communication. The ability to communicate without disruption is critical not only to your business continuity but also to ensuring your employees’ safety.
But what happens when the crisis affects your communications infrastructure? Any number of events can occur to make your office comms services unusable — from builders accidentally cutting through cables during road works to an epidemic that results in high staff absenteeism, or even a natural disaster that damages your office.
When your communications are down, business grinds to a halt. Your staff won’t be able to take calls from customers, and managers will find it challenging to reach their team members.
With that, a solid communication strategy should be at the top of your business continuity priority list. Ensuring your business has an effective communication and collaboration strategy is vital to keeping your customers happy, your employees safe, and your business productive even amid a crisis.
So, what communication platforms should you consider when creating an effective disaster recovery plan?
Unified Communications (UC) Platform
To maintain contact with your internal teams, you need to understand the breadth of the services they use to communicate. Standard comms methods include instant messaging, emails, conferencing, as well as file-sharing applications.
You need to provide these same platforms in disasters, and unified communications can help you with that. Unified communications integrate multiple communication services into a single user interface, allowing employees to switch seamlessly between communications channels.
Unified communications can significantly improve your business continuity. When all communication methods and relevant data are contained in a single platform, it becomes easier for your employees to share and receive information. A good UC platform will keep conversation flowing, enable better customer support, and boost staff morale even in remote work arrangements.
For instance, when your on-premises phone system fails, your staff can route calls to alternative devices. They can receive calls through their smartphones or personal laptops, a common solution when you’re managing a remote workforce.
A UC-enabled business continuity strategy also offers ‘presence’ capabilities. You’ll see each employee’s availability per communication platform, which helps determine the quickest way to contact someone. Let’s say one of your team members doesn’t have their Microsoft Teams open but is active on their email. You’ll know that the latter is the best way to reach them.
Cloud-based software ensures that your employees have access to business-critical resources even when they’re not in the office. The most common example of cloud-based applications are storages like Dropbox and Google Drive. Through these tools, team members can retrieve any data they need for work without sorting through hundreds of files. This way, they can stay productive even when working remotely.
You can also use collaborative cloud-based tools, which let multiple people work simultaneously on the same task. Some examples are document sharing platforms, video conferencing and project management tools. These ensure that your employees can continue working on projects and meeting deadlines, maintaining your productivity.
One of the most significant benefits of cloud-based systems is data redundancy. You can easily back up data and sensitive information on a secure location, allowing access only to people with authorisation.
A business-grade mobile service is also a key consideration. Your employees will have a wide range of requirements from their mobile service, from using it to make and receive calls to it becoming a potential source of connectivity should their home broadband fail.
When choosing a mobile service, factor in what the provider offers – are they focused entirely on businesses? What is their UK-wide coverage like? Can they provide the data bundles you require?
Also, consider your service wrap – do you have a dedicated account manager to help when things aren’t working or when you need to implement change quickly?
It would be best to have a manual failover protocol for when your office isn’t at full capacity. If the staff in charge of taking calls isn’t in the office, make sure other people can take on that role. Train them on how to route calls throughout your organisation and operate any applications or portals involved in the process correctly.
A UC-oriented disaster recovery plan makes manual failover easier. Most unified communications platforms come with call routing capabilities.
If there’s no one available to route calls manually, interactive voice responses (IVRs) can always answer calls without any human intervention required. Having an IVR will let your customers route their calls if a person cannot answer them.
Ask your UC solution provider if their platform comes with IVR capabilities.
If your company still uses traditional analogue or ISDN lines, moving to SIP trunking will provide an extensive range of voice disaster recovery planning options. SIP trunking solutions will often allow calls to automatically failover to a secondary office location if your primary office is offline.
For companies with a single office location, you can have calls diverted to a mobile or any other number to ensure that someone will answer them.
Inbound call management services
The last thing you want to be doing in the event of an emergency is sitting on hold, waiting for your phone provider to make changes for you. Plus, some changes to legacy ISDN lines can even take days to implement.
Alongside SIP, consider implementing a self-serve call management solution. This allows companies to set up and control how to route calls to their business. This means that you can make any necessary changes, quickly and easily, via an online portal.
Some companies still have PBX equipment at their office locations that handle call routing, voicemail, IVRs and call queues. If your PBX is unavailable, many of the call routing features you depend on won’t be operational, causing you to miss calls. This can be confusing and frustrating for customers calling in.
A hosted PBX solution takes the features of on-premise equipment and hosts them on the cloud. Your customers receive the same call flow with a hosted PBX no matter what’s happening at your office locations.
Additionally, most hosted PBX services allow your phones to connect to the service from anywhere. So if you have a disaster, your staff can plug a phone in at home or access the service via a softphone on their desktop or mobile app and keep working.
What to do if you are unsure of your options?
Speak with your service provider to see what business continuity options are available to you. Remember that each business is different, so make sure to ask for solutions tailored to your needs and processes.
Once you have identified any required solutions, make sure to train your employees on using those platforms. This way, they won’t have a hard time transitioning to new communications services in case of a crisis.
Lastly, take your DRP documentation and ensure that the people involved in executing the plan have read and understood it. Everyone should know what their roles are during a crisis. Have a copy of your business continuity plan accessible at all times, even when your physical office is inaccessible.
Learn more about disaster recovery planning and how it could benefit your organisation with our free eGuide: Your Disaster Recovery Plan. For enquiries about other business communications solutions, fill out our contact form.