According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2015 marked the eighth consecutive year that disaster from extreme weather has cost the economy more than $10 billion. And in the wake of January’s Winter Storm Jonas, which has been ranked the fourth worst snowstorm in the Northeast in the past 60 years, many business owners are more aware than ever of the financial necessity of preparing their businesses for the unexpected.
Businesses must identify potential vulnerabilities within their organizations and take the appropriate steps to deal with disasters. Here are four actions business leaders should take as they look to minimize the impact of emergencies and natural disasters on operations and financial health.
- Create a disaster preparedness plan.
Preparing a plan of action prior to an event helps reduce risk as much as possible. Identify potential vulnerabilities and evaluate the risk they pose to business continuity. For example, problems can arise when employees don’t have the right equipment to respond to customer needs when the office or company data is not accessible.
Identify the most critical daily operations and establish procedures for handling them during an emergency. For example, business leaders may consider an alternate location in the event that one office becomes unusable.
- Test the disaster preparedness plan.
According to the most recent research from the Disaster Recovery and Preparedness Council, a third of companies test their preparedness plans only once or twice a year, leaving them at risk from not properly preparing for business continuity and disaster recovery.
Businesses should test and refine their disaster preparedness plan by running regular drills, ensuring everyone feels comfortable with the procedures. Even the most well-reasoned plan must be practiced in order to avoid human error and the resulting downtime and lost revenue.
- Emphasize communication and offer the ability to work remotely.
Communication is always vital to business success, but this reality is accentuated during emergencies. From the ability to communicate with staff to the capacity to address the needs and concerns of the customers they serve, businesses must arm employees with the tools and capabilities they need in order to communicate and work efficiently from remote locations, so that work is not disrupted if an office must close.
For example, businesses should look for cloud-based IP phone systems. Features like mobile twinning, which sends inbound calls to mobile and desk phones simultaneously, ensures employees are available to customers anytime, anywhere.
To keep business functioning optimally, it is best to house 100 percent of communications in the cloud. Retaining communication programming and settings in the cloud, rather than in a physical phone, helps prevent disruption and allows businesses to leverage features like softphones, which allow any Internet-connected PC, iPad, iPhone or Android device to be used as a phone extension.
- Leverage the cloud.
Business data is irreplaceable, and the financial consequences of being unable to access key information and applications in the event of a disaster can be severe.
According to an IDC survey, infrastructure failure can cause $100,000 in losses per hour for large enterprises, while application disruptions can have losses from $500,000 to $1 million. Using a cloud-based storage system keeps company data safe and accessible, regardless of what happens at the physical point of operations.
For maximum reliability, businesses should look for cloud-based data back-up solutions with multiple data centers to ensure undisrupted access to files if a regional disaster affects one of the data centers.
Businesses should also consider transitioning servers to the cloud for improved scalability. With the ability to increase off-site server capacity through a web-based portal, organizations become more nimble in avoiding potential disruptions.
Housing data and servers in the cloud provides a much more secure way to store business information with the added benefit of universal access for employees working off-site.
Preparing and testing a formal disaster preparedness plan is critical in reducing the risk and impact of the unexpected on operations and financial health. Enabling seamless remote work with cloud-based communication solutions and leveraging the cloud to house servers and to back up data are also foundational steps in minimizing vulnerability. Putting the right technologies in place can help organizations navigate future emergencies and disasters that could otherwise have crippled the business.
Jeff Blackey is the senior vice president of marketing for Broadview Networks, one of the top 10 UC cloud providers in the nation. Broadview’s cloud offerings include OfficeSuite® Phone, the hosted phone system that is 100 percent cloud-based using technology unique to Broadview. He has more than 25 years of marketing management experience in the communications industry.