Disaster recovery and business continuity are more important to daily operations than many leaders given them credit for, as having tight control over processes, people and technology can go a long way in strengthening corporate efficiency. Taking that a step further, a major natural disaster is not the only type of threat that can obstruct operations and test the mettle of a business continuity plan, as far less obvious and more subversive risks can be just as challenging and dangerous.
For example, remember that downtime is a significantly devastating prospect, even when systems are not available for a relatively short period of time, but especially when the issue persists for more than a couple of hours. This can be caused by poor integration and configuration of systems, a tiny error on behalf of IT personnel, a lack of contingencies when matters go awry and other situations. More progressive and comprehensive use of unified communications and cloud services technology can be the best medicine.
Looking back through the past four months or so, a wealth of helpful lessons can be found in terms of what types of challenges can arise and hinder operational performance given the sheer oppressive and long-lasting nature of the recently departed winter. Many states - and businesses therein - up in New England and other parts of the nation are still working to regain a sense of normalcy following unprecedented precipitation and months of freezing cold temperatures.
This wasn't the first winter to drive people nuts, either. Just ask residents in Buffalo, such as this Twitter user:
As mentioned above, many of the issues faced were a bit more subversive in nature, and the successes of those companies that maximized the agility and flexibility of their operations ahead of the inclement weather provide positive lessons for other businesses to consider. So, without any further ado, let's take a look at five of the top lessons we have learned from this oppressive, awful, big bad winter that simply did not want to quit from a business continuity standpoint.
1. Flexibility wins
In New England especially, but also in other parts of the country, extreme weather will either make it difficult, unsafe or impossible for an employee to travel into the office. Ice storms in Georgia, feet upon feet of snow throughout the Northeast and plenty other examples of commute-hindering events could be seen throughout the nation this winter, and the businesses that had telecommuting programs in place likely enjoyed the greatest continuity of operations in that time frame.
Leverage UC and cloud services to make your operations more flexible before the next major storm strikes - which can certainly happen in spring or summer as well. Not fall, though - fall is the best.
2. Facilities must be protected
If you own your commercial real estate, you need to have plans in place to ensure that major damage is avoided whenever possible, including collapsed roofs under the weight of the snow, burst pipes due to freezing temperatures and other similar problems. Small-business owners should be especially careful when managing their core facilities, as a high bill for one of these types of issues can quickly hinder cash flow and reduce the success of the company before long.
Even if you rent, make sure your business continuity plan includes some type of provisions to protect the facilities from major strain and damage.
3. Communication is key
Even when you develop an otherwise strong disaster recovery and business continuity plan, a lack of communication contingencies and solutions will completely erase the good efforts of the company's leaders. As soon as a communication breakdown occurs, the chances of the various components of the plan being carried out properly will be minimized, and the strain placed on all employees involved will be maximized.
Always integrate your communications solutions and strategies within a centralized, protected UC framework. Make sure there are contingencies in place to ensure that even the worst-case scenario is met with poise and comfort across your staff.
4. Defend against utility outages
As a business owner, or homeowner for that matter, you might sometimes forget just how many entities you are reliant upon to live your life or run your operations in a normal and consistent fashion. Power companies, Internet providers, telecom firms, public works departments and others need to deliver quality service in their endeavors to keep you happy and, as this winter proved plenty of times, they are not always capable of doing so, especially when massive amounts of precipitation make their jobs impossible.
As such, work with your managed service provider to try and figure out more robust contingencies to keep your operations moving when issues completely outside of your control arise. Investing in generators and similar types of moves can make a big difference.
"Your customers expect you to be resilient in the face of disaster."
5. Be a step ahead
The most stressful disaster situations - especially from an employee's perspective - will be those that strike when the business is a bit behind on work. This is somewhat of a simple idea, but one that does take a lot of planning to get right. Before the seasons or months that tend to be harshest climatically strike your region, which could very well be winter, make sure you are getting into a good spot from a productivity standpoint.
It does not really matter if you are a business-to-business or business-to-consumer operation - your clients and customers will still expect you to be exceptionally resilient in the face of disaster. If you can get your workload a day or two ahead before the winter strikes, this will take a wealth of strain off you and your employees when a major disaster occurs.
If you have not started to implement and optimize UC and cloud services technologies from a proven vendor, the time to do so is now, as this will immediately strengthen your company's continuity in a wealth of adverse situations.