Counting the cost

As my colleague, Peter Cooke, wrote a couple of weeks ago, few businesses in the UK were prepared for the recent wintry conditions and snow, and small businesses in particular found themselves out in the cold. For those of us living on the continent, which was once again bathed in fresh snow over the weekend, the inability of the UK to cope with inclement weather has been gleefully reported on the news channels. With only minor, localised inconvenience seen on the continent, most workers found themselves little disadvantaged.

In the UK, it has been a different matter. In trying to put a figure on what the recent cold spell has cost the UK–and it may not be the last–the Federation of Small Businesses estimates that three million people in the UK missed work on the first working day of 2010 owing to severe weather conditions, costing businesses some £600 million as workers were not able to securely access corporate networks remotely. The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates that more than 2,000 companies could go bankrupt as a result.

Such a situation clearly illustrates the need for provide secure remote access for employees to work from home in order to minimise productivity losses. To prevent further disruptions, organisations of all sizes should investigate services that are available, the majority of which are subscription-based and, because they are provided in the cloud, require little in the way of setup or management. Because of this, any organisation subscribing to such as service can quickly add users as required, even if just for a limited period of time. Let’s hope that the recent weather has been a wake up call to UK businesses. Had the recent Mexican flu scare turned into a pandemic, the damages and lost work hours would undoubtedly have been even greater as workers were sent home in droves and schools shut in an effort to contain the problem. The figures above speak for themselves. If you are not connected these days, you are not in business.

By Fran Howarth, senior analyst