We’re now at that time of year when the papers are writing panic headlines about the winter. We have already had Storm Abigail hit the UK – the first storm in the UK to be given a name by the Met Office. Studies assess how many £billions severe British winters cost our economy. And newspapers report that the UK is on the brink of a new 50 year long Ice Age.
So this winter, how can you make sure your business doesn’t face a crisis of mammoth proportions?
In 2013, RSA Insurance Group carried out research into the effect of severe weather on the economy. They found in just a single snowy day in December 2010 up to a third of people couldn’t get into work, costing the economy up to £473m.
But businesses aren’t just affected by snow.
Research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) found that when temperatures fall by just one degree Celsius below average, it costs the UK economy £2.5 billion.
Because many small and medium businesses don’t have the disaster recovery systems and flexibility to ensure that their business remains productive in the event of severe weather.
In the UK, even the slightest snowfall and frosty conditions can prevent employees getting safe access to work. No employees, no productivity.
But a lot has changed since 2010 and employees not being able to make it into the office should no longer mean a loss in business activity.
Advanced connectivity and easy access to a wide range of technologies means work is now an activity, not just a place.
So for those businesses that are making the most of millennial technologies, when the new Ice Age dawns, it will be business as usual. Almost.
But how can you make sure your business remains productive when the pipes freeze over and office temperature plummets? How can you make sure a leaking roof doesn’t kill your server and your ability to send emails? How will you maintain your business activity when nobody can get into the office? Where does your disaster recovery plans start?
Start with superfast connectivity
Superfast and Ultrafast connectivity is a platform for your business to become faster, smarter and more cutting-edge.
With superfast and ultrafast broadband, it’s easier than ever to make use of the massive range of smart technologies available to businesses.
New cloud-based software and apps that bring a huge amount of features and benefits to all businesses are constantly being developed.
Even technologies such as VoIP (Voice over IP) and Skype for business, which never really took off in the past due to poor internet connections, now have effective broadband at the speed to support it.
Crucially, these technologies that bring greater productivity, reliability and security to businesses, need superfast connectivity to take full advantage.
Make telecoms virtual, not fixed
Now, with superfast connectivity, VoIP is a reliable and efficient way to keep in contact with both clients and employees.
Using a virtual number – a number not fixed to any particular landline – anyone can pick up a call from any location with an internet connection, including 4G.
By installing a simple app on a mobile device, calls to a desktop phone can seamlessly be connected to the next available person’s phone, tablet or laptop.
They can take the call and work as normal, wherever they are.
Telecoms accounts, logins, client contact details are all stored in `the cloud`, so you don’t need to be in the office to make or take that call.
Face-to-face meetings don’t need to be cancelled either. Just use your hosted video conferencing software.
Software such as Vidyo and Skype for business are essential communication tools for flexible and remote working. Vidyo even integrates with your email client to allow you to send and edit emails as part of the hosted conference.
So when you wake up, look out the window and realise the journey to the office is going to be a real health hazard for you employees, you can simply text the team and tell them to work from home.
Storage in the cloud
The cloud is a hugely powerful tool for businesses.
Many apps and programs such as Office 365 and Google Drive are already remote, meaning emails, data and work-related software is all safely stored off-site.
You don’t need to worry about providing secure remote access to your own servers – employees just use their own connections to access the cloud in the usual way, where they can access their software and documents, and work as usual.
Even employees stuck on trains due to leaf-related incidents mean, provided you have an internet connection, work activity can continue.
Plus, when the snow causes the roof to leak, or a frozen pipe to burst and take out your server in the office, you don’t lose anything – it’s all automatically backed up on the cloud.
In fact, you don’t even have a server, because you opted for the cheaper and more reliable way of securely storing data by keeping it in the cloud anyway.
Protection from blackouts
As we’re told the weather will continue to get more extreme and growing demand for electricity from dwindling numbers of power stations means there’s a growing risk of blackouts.
The BBC recently reported electricity supply is expected to exceed demand by 5.1% this winter in the UK, so power cuts as result of excess demand may not be an issue.
But power lines taken out by trees in high winds and sub-zero conditions could cause a problem for keeping businesses open for the day.
You may have access to backup generators and additional power supplies. But access to cloud-based technologies means that any blackouts to your business don’t mean work stops for the day.
Using 4G or Wi-Fi on your mobiles, tablets and laptops means you can continue to access your Office 365 emails, your cloud-based software and all your documents.
It doesn’t matter that your servers are down, or your computers are off, or the lights are out. Using cloud-based technologies means you can access your work activity from anywhere.
Make a snow day a work day
It’s difficult to know exactly how much severe weather in winter costs the UK economy. Losing days to snow, cold weather or simply bad driving conditions, certainly has a big impact on the bottom line for many small and medium businesses.
But modern, reliable connectivity and the right knowledge about telecoms means snow days don’t need to be a day off.
Whilst employees might have a slight change of scenery – whether it be stuck on the M1, using Wi-Fi in their local coffee shop, or sat in their home office – by ensuring your business is `in the cloud` means you stay productive when your competitors don’t.
Even if we do enter a new Ice Age.
If you want us to share our Knowledge About Telecoms to help your business prepare for severe winter weather with a structured disaster recovery plan, please call the team on 01302 260195 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.