Come Hell or High Water: Business Continuity Tips for the Festive Season

business-continuity-come-hell-or-high-water

Three ways businesses can help reduce stresses in the event of a crisis

Around 40% of small businesses never reopen their doors after a disaster. Whether you’re an IT administrator, small business owner or a major decision maker, it’s critical to plan for every possible worst-case scenario. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, but by having a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place, you can significantly improve your business’ odds of survival.

On any given day, a vast array of disasters threaten your operations, from fire to flooding, through to malware, viruses, cyberattacks and human error, the list goes on, and if you’re unprepared for any of these scenarios, your operations could come grinding to halt. But don’t assume that the disaster alone will destroy the company. It’s the operational downtime following the disaster where the devastation can really add up. In a ransomware attack, for example, small businesses lose thousands of pounds per hour in lost productivity and expenses and the longer the downtime, the worse your chances of a full recovery.

Put your people first

Conversations surrounding business continuity generally focus on technology alone. But it’s crucial to bear in mind those who are at the heart of any business. Without the safety and cooperation of your workforce, no recovery will be possible. It’s especially important that you plan for how you’ll keep employees safe in a dangerous situation, such as fires, floods or even a terrorist attack so evacuation procedures, first aid kits and medical response protocols should all be part of your disaster planning and should be rehearsed and updated regularly.

Further, with Christmas around the corner, there’s an increased likelihood of unforeseen interruptions that prevent employees from getting to the workplace – whether it’s a flu outbreak, severe weather or worse. Therefore, a business continuity plan must address how your company will conduct business as usual even in instances where the workplace is off limits. What do you need in the event that employees are unable to get into the office and unable to access computing resources and information? Two things: remote access and collaborative technology.

Managing a remote workforce is becoming an increasingly popular and important task for many organisations thanks to situations like out-of-town conferences or time off tending to sick children and this now also extends to occurrences or disasters that would result in employees having to be geographically dispersed to safer locations. By implementing a more mobile workforce as part of your business communication infrastructure, phones, tablets and laptops can function as office extensions. This way, employees can effortlessly make and receive calls using their own business phone numbers while having their voicemail routed directly to them, no matter where they are.

Alternatively, leveraging a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy for your employees garners near-instant benefits in terms of eliminating the need to buy each employee specific devices and equipment, the satisfaction of your workforce, and a more open, efficient and relaxed environment where the number of staff members using unfamiliar devices is dramatically reduced. As a result, should the worst happen, there’s a ready-made mobile workforce ready to deployed to work towards solving customer issues.

Develop a strategy to redirect calls

Communication is vital to the success of any organisation so when the unexpected strikes, people are often left in a panic. Your business may have an influx of calls from concerned customers, partners, distributors or even employees. Therefore, you need to ensure your phone system can easily add capacity remotely, or even automatically. The ability to intelligently route overflow calls will provide a dramatically better experience for your already anxious callers by reassuring them that they will be dealt with and more importantly that you are seen to be reacting to an issue instantaneously.

A solution such as leveraging SIP trunking is brilliant in the sense that it has the ability to reroute all your inbound calls to either mobile handsets or to another office location instantly, ensuring minimum downtime and a potential catastrophic loss of both revenue and reputation. Similarly, implementing an interactive voice response (IVR) system can add instant value to a business long before an incident arises.

An IVR is a telephony menu system that enables the identification, segmentation and routing of callers to the most appropriate agent within your team. Simple and effective, businesses are able to record customised greetings, messages and prompts so that when a customer reaches your company, they will have a personalised and much more efficient experience. IVRs also handle a high volume of calls with great ease. Callers are automatically directed to the agent or department that is most capable of meeting their needs or will be placed in a queue when all agents are otherwise engaged. Some systems even present the caller with the option of having an agent return their call rather than wait in a queue.

Ultimately, such a solution – particularly in the event of a crisis – works 24/7/365 meaning that calls never go unanswered. Aside from presenting necessary information to callers, systems can also store messages and can alert designated persons automatically in the case of an emergency. Depending on the system installed, IVR’s can also aid callers by giving out emergency instructions.

Create off-site backups

If your company’s most valuable assets are all centralised in one location, without backups, then you’re creating an enormous risk. Replicating resources like data, infrastructure and operations off-site – with today’s hybrid cloud backup solutions, for example – you can store and recover data both on-site and in the cloud for true business insurance. It’s also a good idea to have a backup location (or at the very least, plans for quickly obtaining one) in case you need to move your critical operations following an on-site disaster.

As part of a wider disaster recovery plan, you need to know how quickly your data can be restored and how soon your critical systems can get back up and running. If you’ve backed up to the cloud then you’ll be restoring over an internet connection. The main advantages of this is that your saved data is easily available at all times, mitigating the need to recover media from off-site locations or wait for the appropriate storage device to be connected before you start retrieving your files. In an instance where you need to get everything back, some cloud solutions offer a one-click recovery option that restores everything to its previous location in one process.

Alternatively, while storing your data offline might seem outmoded, it is still a secure way of managing your information. Even companies that thrive on technological advances still resort this mode of storage. By keeping data offline, you are giving your company the option to store information at an offsite location and this is practical for any company that deals with high volumes of information as it enables you to keep all of your data in one place as data stored offline is removable.

Off-site data backup is arguably easier to monitor and destroy than data floating in the cloud and cybercriminals are fast becoming wise to the fact that information is perhaps more vulnerable when stored in this way as it is easier to infiltrate. A disaster recovery plan is vital for business continuity and so it is key that your company creates a plan that works best for you. Offline data management often proves itself to be just as effective as cloud backups during times of disaster – especially in instances of cyber criminality. If your company’s information is lost to a viral attack you can still feel reassured in the knowledge that you have access to backup data stored offsite; data which you can have access to within hours.

Lucy Darbyshire

About Lucy Darbyshire

Lucy Darbyshire is a Content Executive at Daisy Group, the UK’s leading end-to-end business communications and IT services provider. She is passionate about creating engaging, informative and accessible digital content that adds value to both internal and external audiences.