Things go wrong. The problem is, we can never be sure what might happen, when or the exact effects. What we can do is make sure we are as prepared as possible to react to a range of circumstance.
At EJC, our priorities in this area are to help you ensure your business can continue functioning, regardless of incidents such as:
- Severe weather – snow, flooding, wind damage
- Transport (or other) strikes
- Widespread illness / pandemics
- Fire / vandalism
- Data loss / cyberattacks / computer viruses
- Significant hardware / software failure
In our experience, many clients have a rough idea of what they might do, but when it comes to testing (or real life), significant issues arise that need to be overcome, for example:
|Staff can use laptops||They don’t take them home at night|
|Our phone system has a smart phone app||Staff don’t have it installed on their phones and don’t know their credentials|
|Calls can be diverted to mobiles||You have to be at your desk to set the redirect|
|Our staff have email on their phones||Not everyone does, and many aren’t aware how to access via webmail|
|Staff can connect from their home PCs||Some PCs don’t have antivirus and are missing updates|
and so on.
In short, most systems fail because they aren’t tested in any reasonable way before there’s a problem.
Before You Start
What are the big risks?
The size and type of your business will play a big part in your concerns. There are also multiple situations to consider: carrying-on more or less as usual during a day’s transport strike (with advance notice) is significantly different to discovering your building – and all its contents – has burned to the ground.
What would you need to do to keep things going whilst you assess the damage: Could you contact all of your customers and staff? How do you ensure phone calls don’t ring unanswered? Can your team access important systems and data?
What are you already doing?
We find a lot of businesses are already doing a lot more than they realise: most firms now have some sort of back-up system, most have cloud-based email systems and many have some kind of online backup or cloud storage system.
Test the system
If you want someone to be able to do something, make sure they can do it. We regularly find that staff have apps on their phone or software on their computers to enable them to work remotely, but they have never used it before, or don’t know passwords and other access details.
If people need to be able to work remotely, ask them to spend a day doing it and find out what happens.
Keep people up-to-date
There’s no point in having backup systems if people don’t know how to use them. Tell staff what is expected of them in different situations, and how your business will continue to function. Give them the support, resources and tools they need.
Accessing and managing your files
Before you even start to consider how to access files remotely, pause to think about what’s stored on paper. We’re still a long way from the ‘paperless office’ nirvana, so take some time to look around at what physical files are in your office, for example:
- Business critical documents – including insurance policies etc.
- Day-to-day documents – related to clients, projects, procedures and processes
Make digital copies where possible.
Many of our clients already have some form of remote desktop e.g. Windows RDS or Citrix, and many have cloud storage – Office 365 / OneDrive, Dropbox or Google Drive for example.
Make sure you have licenses allocated for all staff who would need access, or can quickly obtain more, and that they are trained to use these services, and don’t fall into the easy – and common – trap of saving files to their desktop, “because it’s quicker”.
You should also review security policies to ensure you remain compliant with data protection regulations. Multi-factor authentication is strongly advisable for such a critical part of your business, and if you have a system to limit access to certain connections / locations, be clear about how this is managed and who to contact if there is a problem.
Backup & recovery
Are all your systems and digital data backed-up off-site? Do you know how to access them if there’s a breach or loss? Are you absolutely sure your backup is functioning correctly? Have you tested it and how can you check? Who do you call if there’s a problem?
You should be confident in the answers to each of these questions, as should at least some members of your staff. Don’t have a single point of failure.
Communication between staff and clients
One of the biggest problems in a crisis is confusion which either causes, or is caused by, a lack of communication. Everyone in your company should know what to do if they can’t make it in to work – at a very minimum putting an ‘out of office reply’ on your email will buy you some time. Policies should be in place to deal with communicating with your staff and with your clients.
Phones & phone systems
If you have to work remotely, either for a day or longer-term, can your phone system handle it – can you answer calls using an app on your PC or smartphone or can you divert calls to mobiles? Are you able to set-up call diverts remotely, or do you have to physically be in the office to do so? Who is responsible for doing this?
Can all staff access email remotely, and do they know how? Email is arguably one of the areas where most businesses are fairly well-positioned, as we are all too aware from the constant nagging of our phones!
But access by phone isn’t really enough, especially for longer emails and if people need to work remotely for longer periods of time.
Make sure everyone who needs to use email knows how to access it from home – where to go, what their password is (and how to reset it if necessary), and any security requirements. For example, we tend to enforce PIN/passwords on any mobile device with corporate email accounts installed. If someone is installing email on their phone for the first time they should be aware of this.
It’s surprising how much you can get done during a crisis without having to attend all those meetings that seemed essential at the time… That said, it’s important to have systems for face-to-face or remote collaboration.
We regularly use Microsoft Teams at EJC for video, conference calls and chat. Teams is part of an Office 365 subscription if you have it. Other options include Google Hangouts, Skype and screensharing / audio software such as GoToMeeting or similar. FaceTime and WhatsApp are also options for informal chats.
Choose a piece of software and test it – even if you’re all in the same office at the time. Make sure everyone who might need it has the software installed and knows how to use it.
Announcement / broadcast emails
Could you send an email to all your staff, suppliers, clients in the next hour? If you have email marketing software, are the contact lists kept up-to-date? Who is responsible for writing and sending any announcements, and what happens if they are not available?
In extreme circumstances you might have to post updates to your website. As with announcement emails: who is responsible for this, what will you say and how do you do it?
Social media is an ideal way of getting information out quickly. But it’s also a very public place to make mistakes, so be sure it’s managed by people who will remain calm in a crisis, and not be goaded into snippy replies.
If you don’t use your social media accounts very often, are you at least able to access them?
Is there any physical equipment you need to keep your business running? How – or how long – can you cope without access to it?
Some businesses can only function if they can access their premises – factories, restaurants etc. – others are more flexible. What are your options?
Don’t forget to pay attention to the basics. If you need a card reader, finger-print reader or code generator to access your business bank account, it’s of little use locked away in a desk drawer. If you can’t keep it with you, make sure you have more than one, with each stored in multiple locations. What other small things might you have missed?
Although a many businesses now use cloud based systems or host their servers in managed datacentres, some still rely on in-house technology. Can it be managed and rebooted remotely? How, and by who? What happens if there is a power cut to your building? Do you back them up to a remote location and how quickly could those systems be up and running from a new location?
IT support services
It’s a lot to take in, but it’s important. We don’t want to sound over-the-top, but the future of your business could depend on how you respond to a major crisis. Some businesses thrive, some barely survive while others go to the wall.
There’s an additional bonus too: getting a lot of the things we’ve listed above right will actually make your business better and more efficient even if nothing goes wrong.
Talk to us. Ask us questions about how best to do things. Talk to everyone in your company about what’s important, what they think you’re missing.
When there’s a problem
We’re here to help you, but we also want to make sure you can help yourself where possible. It’s far better to make sure you and your staff have access to, for example, all your passwords without having to call us to ask how to login to that system you haven’t used for a couple of years. It’s far better to be able to change your phone system’s divert settings immediately without having to ask us to do it for you. And it’s far better to never have to lie awake at night worrying because you accidentally watched the news just before bed and now you think the world’s about to end…
Need more help?
There is a lot to think about, we understand that. If you’d prefer to just talk through it, click below or call us on 0370 600 9700.
We can arrange an appointment to give you more information and discuss where we can help.