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How much of your day-to-day business relies on technology: phones; internet; computers? What would happen if there was a major outage and these resources were unavailable – would your business survive?
As businesses rely more and more on digital technologies, the costs of downtime grow exponentially. 54% of businesses have experienced downtime lasting for at least one full working day within the last five years. If your business does not have a thorough and up-to-date business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place, this kind of downtime could affect your business irreversibly.
A disaster recovery plan outlines how a business can return to operation following a major issue with a business site, connectivity disruption, or data loss. However, this must be created in synergy with a business continuity plan, to ensure the business remains as efficacious as possible while the disaster is being resolved.
By continuing business operations through a disaster period, there is a much higher chance of a business being successful and returning to usual efficiency quickly than if there was a full and sudden cessation of all work carried out by the company. There will also be fewer tasks to catch up on when usual service is resumed, and some time-sensitive work can still be completed during the downtime period.
If your company is uncontactable during a disaster, potential customers who are trying to contact your business may look to competitors for services. Similarly, if existing customers have a bad experience because they are unable to contact customer support or receive information, they may consider moving to a competitor. For these reasons, your business must be contactable, even if waiting times are longer than usual.
To ensure a continuation of services, a business continuity plan must cover access to data and prevention of data loss, internet and phone connectivity, and diversion of phone calls.
Regular data backups are essential for protecting your business files. Daily backups store data uploaded to a server, which can be recovered at a later point, even if the original file has been deleted. Keeping backup disks on-site risks a loss of data if there is a problem at the location. Using off-site cloud backups ensure data is protected in the event of a physical disaster on the business premises, such as a fire or flood, and files can be restored to a machine at an alternate location.
If the main internet and/or phone line to a business is interrupted, employees can be stranded and unable to complete their work. Some interruption can last for multiple days, especially if there is an issue with the physical line into the building where a major repair is necessary.
A backup line can be installed into a location from an alternative exchange point to serve the main line. This line can be of the same grade as the mainline to maintain a fast connection or it can be a cheaper, lower classification to save costs.
Alternatively, a 4G router can be installed to maintain an internet connection to a business in the event of a loss of the main inbound line. With options for up to 1TB of data connection, a 4G router is a cost-effective backup option as there is no requirement to install a new physical line or for monthly line rental.
If there is a disaster on the business site with no access to the building, it is important to have the flexibility to be able to divert inbound phone calls to ensure customers can still contact your company. If a business has multiple sites, it can use SIP trunking or hosted PBX infrastructure to divert all calls to another location.
Diversion to a mobile phone through a hosted phone system’s online portal is a temporary solution, but a high volume of calls for an extended period of downtime increases the risk of unanswered and missed calls. In these cases, remote call handling options should be considered.
Remote Call Handling
An alternative to diverting inbound calls to a mobile is remote call handling which allows employees to make and receive calls through the usual business number from a remote location. Many hosted phone systems have mobile and desktop clients which allow for inbound and outbound calls from the business phone number, as well as direct lines (DDIs), to be made from anywhere in the world. Multiple call handlers can take calls from customers concurrently, rather than the single line which is present when calls are diverted to a mobile.
If call handlers are not able to answer all, or any, calls due to a disaster, a voice recording can provide customers with alternative contact details or support information. Voice recordings can be added to inbound lines quickly in an emergency or inserted before existing IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems.
All of these factors need to be considered when creating or reviewing a business continuity plan alongside your disaster recovery plan, to keep your business productive and to reduce the costs of downtime. Following a disaster, 90% of small companies fail within a year if they are not able to reopen within 5 days according to FEMA. This shows just how important it is for a business to have a resilience plan in place, no matter their size.