According to IT support services company Managed Networks around 65% of the UK workforce may be 'out of office' today, if the calls made to their helpdesk are representative of the experiences of businesses across the country.
The heaviest snowfall in London in 18 years has led to severe travel disruptions, particularly in the capital and the South East, where the dense transport networks are ill-prepared to cope with such circumstances, and many people have to commute too great a distance to work to be able walk in instead.
The cost to the UK economy of lost productivity thanks to absent workers and diminished footfall in shops could be up to £1.2 billion per day, the Federation of Small Businesses told BBC News on Monday. It is estimated that this could rise to as much as £4 or £5 billion by the end of the week.
So should businesses be better prepared for such events? Nigel Davey of Managed Networks thinks so:
‘All too often, people think about massive disasters when they talk about business continuity but in truth, it is day to day factors – like bad weather– that can impact us most of all. IT help desks and support staff have all been inundated with calls today (2nd February) from frustrated business owners who have found that they do not have a plan in place for remote working in circumstances just like these.’
Managed Networks suggest that companies prepare their business continuity plans to cope not just with major disasters, but also the smaller, more everyday crises such as the current snowfall. They suggest the following business continuity checklist for small and medium sized businesses:
- Prepare for lack of building access for employees. Ensure employees can work remotely with full access to all files and e-mail – systems like Desktop Live provide easy, cost effective solutions.
- Create a ‘battle box’. Use it to store software discs and the relevant licence numbers and passwords along with copies of important documents such as insurance certificates etc. Ideally keep a second, duplicate set of records off the premises as back up.
- A sensible addition to the battle box is a list of key staff's emails, passwords, telephone numbers – that way if you are shutting or relocating your office for the day you can quickly notify them.
- Explore contracting a second, supplementary ADSL supplier or make sure you appreciate the restrictions of your service guarantee. That way you can limit the chances of being without Internet access. It may cost more but it’s a lot cheaper than whole-company downtime.
- If you have an in-house server and you are backing up regularly, make sure you have the server regularly maintained and know how to recover your data if it does fail. With advances in technology you could find that some of your hardware is now out of production and spare parts/replacements could take weeks to replace. Managed Networks recommends using hard drives instead of tapes for back-up as all you will normally need in order to retrieve your data is the drive and a USB cable.
Davey concludes ‘Failing to plan for a genuine business issue and being unable to trade due to weather conditions can have a serious impact on your business. The investment in prevention is sensible and is usually returned many-fold.’