Column: Planning and preparation can reduce a disaster’s impact on your business

By Jeff Blackey

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The National Centers for Environmental Information reported that as of July 2016, there have been eight weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. Every September, known as National Preparedness Month, we are reminded of the toll natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires take on businesses. However, business leaders know that in reality, smaller man-made disasters, such as spilled coffee, have a greater chance of impacting our daily lives and operations.

Business leaders should consider the following three tips that can significantly eliminate the threat of downtime and provide continuity for their organization’s communications in the event of all business disasters and disruptions.

Create a disaster preparedness plan and test it

Preparing a plan of action includes identifying the most critical daily operations and establishing procedures for handling them during an emergency prior to an event. This helps to greatly reduce the risk of problems that arise when employees are without the right equipment to respond to customer needs when company data is not accessible.

For example, business leaders may consider adopting a cloud-based unified communications (UC) solution that can be accessible from any location on any device with failover capabilities for local issues or overrides so employees can work easily when accessing the office is not an option. In addition to understanding business needs, recognize how a change in communications solutions could affect existing business infrastructure or critical software such as Salesforce.

To avoid problems that can arise from not properly preparing for business continuity and disaster recovery, businesses should test and refine their disaster preparedness plans by running regular drills, ensuring everyone feels comfortable with the procedures to avoid human error and the resulting downtime and lost revenue.

Keep communication a top priority

Clear, timely communication is more critical than ever during disruptive events. To keep lines of communication open, businesses should look to cloud-based UC systems. Unique applications and features like softphones, which allow employees to make and receive calls from a PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet connected to the internet, can make employees available at a moment’s notice. Many disasters and disruptions involve downed phone lines or office closings, so selecting a cloud-based UC system that stores communications 100 percent in the cloud, instead of being reliant on the physical phone, is ideal. While hardware like phones and desktops are key for in-office productivity, any programming stored in a physical phone increases the odds of disruption when the unexpected occurs.

Organizations must be able to address the needs and concerns of the customers they serve, even in the midst of a disaster. A New York-based real estate company, Town Residential, dealing in both commercial and residential properties, survived Hurricane Sandy by having a cloud-based UC system at hand. In fact, the first business day after the hurricane hit, they did not let one call go missed and even closed their largest deal of the year while other businesses in Manhattan were closed. Although many businesses settled for simply surviving a natural disaster, Town Residential chose the right provider and the right solutions in advance to the disaster and ensured unwavering business continuity.

Offer the ability to work remotely

The significance of communication is heightened during emergencies. From the ability to communicate with staff to the capacity to address the needs and concerns of the customers they serve, businesses must enable employees to communicate and work efficiently from remote locations so that work does not come to a screeching halt when employees are without access to the office.

Organizations have complete control over how customers’ calls are handled, regardless of who is available and where they are. The best cloud-based UC systems include advanced features like mobile twinning, which sends inbound calls to mobile and desk phones simultaneously; the ability to reroute calls online; auto attendants that serve as virtual receptionists ensuring every call is answered; and voicemail transcription that allows employees to check their office voicemail instantly without ever stepping foot into the office.

While National Preparedness Month was a great time to start placing business continuity at the forefront of business planning, companies should continue to prioritize preparedness year-round. With proper planning, businesses may never need to recover from disasters — natural or man-made — because they will avoid them altogether. By choosing to equip a business with a cloud-based UC system, no matter what issues affect the organization, the system will remain safe and employees can easily continue “business as usual” anytime, from any location.

Jeff Blackey is senior vice president of marketing at Broadview Networks in Rye Brook, N.Y. He can be reached at 914-998-8200 or at JBlackey@broadviewnet.com. 

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