Is your business ready for the unexpected?

By: John McGarvey

Date: 6 July 2015

Don't slip upEarlier this year, an underground fire in Holborn caused days of disruption for businesses based in that part of central London. As this event hit the news, it raised an important question for businesses: what plans do you have in place for the unexpected

The incident received widespread coverage and some estimates put the cost of disruption at £50m.

Some businesses were unable to enter their premises for days and employees had to leave their laptops and smart phones behind. Many staff were sent home and power outages hit telephone systems and servers.

When something like this happens, some disruption is inevitable. But if you prepare, you can minimise the problems you face.

Telecoms is key

It's not just dramatic, newsworthy events that cause disruption. Inclement weather (snow, floods or heat), transport issues and more can all cause problems for your company.

It's worth your company having a continuity plan in place so you have some idea of what to do if a crisis hits. There are several aspects to think about, but your telecoms form a key element.

If a problem was to affect your organisation, how would your customers get in touch and how would you continue to operate? Some surveys have shown that losing communications can cost a company thousands of pounds a day.

How to prepare for problems

Equinox provides telecoms services to UK businesses. Dave Millet, director there, recommends asking a few key questions:

  • If your business uses a traditional phone system, have you investigated whether a call divert feature is available? This allows you to reroute calls during a crisis.
  • If you use a voice over IP telephone system, you may be able to sign in to an online control panel to divert calls when your staff are working elsewhere. But do you know how?
  • Similarly, some of these systems offer an 'automatic failover' feature, which re-routes calls for you in the event of a problem. Have you set this feature up?
  • How is your company data backed up and where are the backup copies held? If you were unable to get into your premises, would you know how to access your data?
  • Do you have a list of everyone you should call in a crisis? And are copies easily available? You might need to get hold of employees, telecoms providers, IT suppliers and more – all in a hurry.

It can be hard to know how much time and money to spend creating and testing business continuity procedures.

But a good way to start is to estimate the cost of a day's lost business. If this figure is large, you can justify a greater investment in building resilience into your systems and procedures.

Being prepared means taking action now - not waiting until something happens. Hopefully you will never need to put your plans into practice. However, if you do, it could be the difference between survival and bankruptcy.

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