How to prepare your business for the unexpected

The incident received widespread coverage and the cost of the disruption has been put at £50m with scores of businesses having to send staff home, and people not being able to re-enter buildings to retrieve mobiles, laptops etc. Add to that the absence of power affecting telephone systems and servers.

Everyone was affected – but those with an emergency plan in place coped a lot better.

According to Dave Millett of Equinox, there are many aspects to consider but telecoms is one of the most important. If customers and suppliers can’t get through then potential orders will be placed elsewhere.

It is not just unexpected incidents that cause disruption it can be more common situations such as inclement weather (floods, snow and occasionally, in this country, heat) or transport issues either through accident or industrial action.

If something were to happen to your organisation how would your customers get in touch and how would you continue to operate whilst re-establishing the business? Surveys have shown the cost to businesses of losing communications can run to tens of thousands of pounds per day.

It is estimated that 80 per cent of all commercial transactions are made over the phone and according to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) almost 1 in 4 companies experience an interruption to their telecoms every year. Whilst most of these are short term, longer term disruption could ultimately lead to business failure.

A study by Henley Management College showed that 60% of companies that experienced a loss of normal telecoms for a period of 10 days ceased trading within a year.

So what can you do to increase your level of preparedness?

Dave Millett of independent telecoms brokerage Equinox advises you ask yourself the following questions:

  • If you have VOIP you can log in via a web portal and divert your calls – but do you know how?
  • Some VOIP solutions have automatic failover but is it setup?
  • Is your data backed up offsite? Do you know how to access it from other devices?
  • Got analogue lines? Did you know you can add call divert as a feature for a few pounds a month?
  • If you just have ISDN services you can normally only redirect all your numbers to one single number? SIP allows you to redirect individual extensions, each to a different number if necessary.
  • Do you have the details of who to call, if there is an outage, and your account details held offsite or in the cloud where you can access it?
  • Got a phone system – do you know how to set the call forward? Can it be done remotely?
  • Have you thought about inbound numbers that come with an App to activate your continuity plan at the touch of a button? Inbound numbers are virtual numbers that sit in front of your phone system. They exist in the Cloud and you control them via a Web Portal – so you can instantly redirect them yourself. They are more commonly associated with 0845, 0800 etc. but you can have geographic 01,02,03 numbers as well.

We often get asked how much business continuity do we need? A good place to start is to consider the cost of a day’s lost business – this will help you determine a suitable figure. For example, in the case of a hedge fund it is likely to be quite large which justifies more investment in resilience and alternatives. In the case of a firm of accountants the impact is probably less. Alternatively how much of your business is based over the phone on a day to day basis? The higher the percentage the more prepared you should be.

Being prepared means taking action now – not waiting until something happens. Ask yourself the questions above and take action where required. Hopefully you will never need it – but if you do it could be the difference between survival and bankruptcy.

Image: Crisis via Shutterstock