We’re thinking about business resilience this week – and with the recent severe floods in Cumbria and Scotland, I imagine we’re not the only ones. We’ve had lots of experience helping our customers deal with all sorts of disasters, and know that technology can be a big factor in helping businesses cope with, and recover from, interruptions.
Interruptions to your business can come in any form – severe weather events, leaks, disasters, even terrorism or crime meaning that your whole office is cut off behind the yellow police tape.
Severe weather is one of the most likely scenarios: recent FSB research found that two thirds of small businesses had been negatively affected by severe weather at some time in the last three years. On average, these events cost each affected business just under £7,000.
We think that improving your resilience comes down to two key things: planning and infrastructure. So here are our top tips for protecting your business:
You might be lucky and have advance warning of potential disruption, through flood warnings for example. Other events can take you completely by surprise, so you need to have thought ahead about every potential scenario and made a plan to cover them.
- Go through the Business Resilience Health Check questionnaire to identify areas of risk for your business. We thought we had our bases covered, and we had – for all the most likely scenarios. It’s the scenarios you never thought would apply to you that will catch you out (for example, read about what happened when a water main burst in our communications cabinet).
- Don’t assume anything. You might think that your people would never try to come to work in a blizzard, but unless you have explicitly outlined your expectations, they may surprise you.
- Make a plan, make sure it’s communicated to everyone, and schedule regular reviews. Think about running a scenario exercise to test your plan every so often.
Getting your infrastructure right can help you mitigate the risks to your business. This can be as simple as moving servers and communications cabinets to a higher floor if you are at risk of flooding, or choosing cloud-based services rather than your own servers. The main elements to consider are:
- Data – where is your data held, is it backed up, and how do you access it? If it’s stored on servers in your office and the backups are kept in the same location, you might lose them both at the same time. You could think about cloud solutions to ensure uninterrupted access from anywhere. Don’t forget to consider how long it will take you to restore your data from a backup – and what hardware you will use (for example, read about how we helped our clients, Target Media Group, get back up and running after a flood).
- Backup is not the same as resilience or business continuity – having good backups of your data means you can recover in the event of a disaster, but this can still result in days of down time. Cloud storage, Replication and Virtualisation are all technologies that can help you maintain a real-time working copy of your data in another location – so that you can carry on working even when disaster strikes (watch this space for another post looking at this in more detail this month).
- Hardware – do you have hardware you can access at a moment’s notice such as laptops and servers so people can get working again? Does your business use specialist equipment that would be hard to source quickly? Think about how you would get up and running again if you lost everything in your premises to fire or flood.
- Premises – If you have to move to alternative premises, do you know what you need to get working again? Can key staff work from home, and if so will they have all the tools they need? Not everyone takes their company laptop home every night, so Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a key consideration.
- Communications – How will you communicate with your staff in an emergency? Do you have contact details for everyone that can be accessed without going into your office? How many people have company mobile phones, and if you have large numbers of staff, do you have a system in place that can broadcast text messages to everyone simultaneously? Some HR systems give you this feature, which can be invaluable. Remember that in an emergency people are going to be extremely busy, so think about how to get information out quickly and efficiently.
If you’d like to talk to us about how your technology can keep you working in an emergency, just give us a call 020 7043 7044 or drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org.