Posted on January 26, 2016 by Dan Quick
A classic Nor’easter blizzard by the name of Jonas certainly did a number on the East Coast over the weekend. The massive storm system blanketed millions of people and businesses with more than record snowfalls as storm surges and gale-force winds also wrecked havoc up and down the Atlantic states. While many city governors are applauding citizens for heeding the many emergency warnings, many more are still urging people to stay off of the roads while crews work to clear the record-setting snowfall. While many millions of school children are enjoying snowdays, however, millions more businesses need to scramble to account for the missing revenue of these off days.
“This is worse than Sandy.”
Those were the words of Keith Laudeman, a small business owner in Cape May, New Jersey, who compared Jonas to the 2012 Superstorm Sandy. Laudeman has been preparing for or battling off the flooding caused from Jonas since the previous Wednesday and will spend upwards of two more weeks with repairs from the flood before he can reopen. The potential for three weeks off from studies due to a snow storm would be music to most schoolchildren’s ears, but to a small business owner in a vacation town who is already in the slowest part of his year to miss out on crucial revenue the news can be catastrophic. Millions of homes and businesses that were left powerless in the wake of Sandy, and the cost of those outages reached well into the billions. Even if you weren’t in a coastal town that had flooding to content with in addition to the record-setting snowfall, every day of inactivity costs your business dearly.
Don’t Just Up and Quit Your Job One Day
Or do, we’re not here to judge. The point is that you wouldn’t leave your stable gig without something to replace it with already lined-up, would you? No, of course not. That’s just as inadvisable as leaving your entire business unprotected against outages. As scary as it is to think about having your entire business continuity rely not effort, but rather to dangle precariously in the balance whenever there is the slightest disruption, there are far too many businesses that do. IT downtime alone costs businesses over $26 billion a year, so to combine those costs with repairs from a massive storm plus the compounded issues of lost revenue and customers, the narrow margins for error when it comes to failover systems for your business only tighten further.
It really is easy, though, to keep up and running. With a reliable telephone failover system as part of a business continuity plan, any business can operate with impunity in the face of the increasingly unpredictable weather. We don’t suggest you go out storm-chasing or anything, but you won’t have to bat an eye if your building loses power or gets snowed-in because emergency failover systems mirror your existing phone system and host a carbon copy back up of it in the cloud. Alternatively, you could anticipate that a storm is coming and, much like Jonas hit over the weekend, just plan for your team to stay home and then activate the communications back-up on Monday morning while everyone works safely from the comfort of their own home.
There are even more benefits to having a hosted emergency failover system preside over your business including keeping your team safe and informed during emergencies and keeping your customers informed with automated messages. You can learn more about how to benefit from the flexibility and low barriers to entry into the world of hosted telephone communications by arranging for a free personal tour of a VirtualPBX cloud-based service and seeing how to maximize your business’ potential, no matter what the weather looks like.
Posted on January 14, 2016 by Dan Quick
In the first week of 2016, rain has been coming to the drought-stricken state of California. Lots and lots of rain. Between flooding on three of the Bay Area’s busiest freeways, intermittent power outages, and the classical Californian ineptitude for safely navigating wet roads, getting work done has been an adventure lately. Plus, with another week of rain right around the corner, more businesses are realizing the need for contingency plans if they expect to keep their doors open through this much-needed rainy season.
El Niño & the Terrible Twos
The onslaught on extreme weather barreling in from the Pacific Ocean is part of the El Niño effect that we have been warning you about for the past several months. Now that it has begun to hit the Californian coastline, the extreme unpredictability has begun to spread across the United States as well. Everything from massive flooding in Missouri, deadly tornadoes in Texas, and even the third coldest game ever played in NFL history this past weekend in Minnesota all mark just the beginning of what will likely be a record-setting year for dangerous and disruptive weather. Unlike pie-eating contests or consecutive free throws made, however, these types of records are not the types of benchmarks you wish to eclipse.
Beat the Weather
When El Niño is throwing a tantrum the best thing you can do is ignore it and not engage. Sure, that looks good on paper, but it isn’t as easily accomplished by a business that is trying not to encourage a rainstorm. Fortunately for you, when you have a hosted telephone system from VirtualPBX, you have the flexibility and mobility of one of the most reliable networks in the cloud. That means that if your own I-80 (or 280 or 101 or any other freeway here) is flooded over, your office park has a power outage, or you just don’t want to swim across your carport to your car, you can work from home or anywhere you can find higher ground and an internet connection. Because you’re connected to your customers through the internet, if you’re already at work when the storm hits and you lose all of your utilities, you never really go down and can take your business with you to a safe location.
You can still benefit from the same failover that VirtualPBX users enjoy even if you’re on a traditional, on-site PBX, too. By employing PBX Parachute, a hosted telephone failover system that mirrors your existing phone set-up, you too can have the confidence that comes from knowing that no matter if it’s raining cats and dogs, you’ll be able to stay busy with your customers. Whereas a hosted phone system is always online and accessed through the cloud, PBX Parachute mirrors the on-site PBX and when access to it is disrupted, it instantly deploys via the cloud and your business lines stay hot without skipping a beat.
Read more about PBX Parachute with our Data Sheet or make an appointment to take a personal tour through the benefits of unified communications through the cloud and start battening down the hatches for the next storm today!
Posted on October 23, 2015 by Dan Quick
Planning for the worst events in life may not be an exercise in how to make yourself feel great, but it is an inescapably valuable part of leading any organization. Just as the most capable, defensive motorists are required to have liability insurance to drive, so too should a comprehensive Business Continuity Plan be a part of any company’s standard operating procedures. Additionally, the people who are chosen to execute this plan in the event of an emergency should mirror the way you hire for your business in that the strength of the team determines the quality of their product. Of course, in all of our worlds, we want to make sure we don’t have any weak links in the chain.
Identify the Essentials
Obviously everyone on your team is important and irreplaceable, that said, there are some job functions that have a more immediate impact to your bottom line than others when it comes to shutting down an office. Specifically, what departments or job functions would you ideally never have down, not even for an instant, if you could manage that? Say, for example, that you have a Sales Director who can shift her attention from managing her team to handling much of the day-to-day traffic should she be required to do so. Identifying her as an essential extension to stay operational during a prolonged service interruption at your office is a good sign that she should probably also be a key stakeholder on your emergency response team. Once you have all of the critical individuals identified, you’re ready to move forward with navigating the path for the team to take during an emergency.
Make a Plan
The next step in in building your emergency response team is to designate a chain of command. Even for matrix organizations, a hierarchy probably already exists in the business operations of your company. This is not necessarily the one you should default to for an emergency response team. As part of your OSHA Incident Command System, you’ve likely already identified a Safety Officer for your office. If not, you probably should. You can come back and finish this article when you’re finished. For everyone else, know that this person has the training and trust of the leaders who chose him or her to guide the team through any emergency. It’s best to default to the Safety Officer’s instructions to make sure that, before anything else, the whole company finds its way to safety as soon as possible during an emergency. From there you can then implement any continuity procedures you’ve set in place beforehand. Some of those could include the following-
- Automated hotline message for employees to describe evacuation and check-in procedures and any other pertinent information
- Have your automatic business telephone failover system programed to keep the essential employee’s extensions live and forwarded to their mobile or home phones
- Have pre-record messages for your inbound calls that state, in a general way, that you will have limited access to your phone system, and have the system admin update to that message from their remote access portal.
Following these few steps won’t totally complete your emergency response team’s strategy by any means, but including them will help solve plenty of problems before they occur.
You Know How to Get to Carnegie Hall, Don’t You?
Practice. You’ve made it this far to choose, build, plan, and empower your emergency response team, congratulations! Unfortunately, the work doesn’t stop just yet. Like any good team, preforming under pressure is a function of how well the members therein know their roles. To get there, try doing some simulations to test how well the team and the plan work together. Just like in business, you need to be willing to experiment, measure, iterate, and retry until you get things right. Plus, considering the essential nature of this particular endeavor, you’d be very well-served to put your best foot forward. Ideally you’ll never have to find out, but if your team is ever required to jump into action, having a smooth, rehearsed, and comprehensive strategy will be handsomely rewarding.
To get started today, consider your business as a homeowner who is evacuating from a fire and can only take one thing with it. It may seem silly, but these types of approaches help begin the thorough process in finding your business essentials. If you ever get stuck, you should consider taking a free personal tour with our emergency planning experts of the phone systems that will enable you to execute on the plan once it’s finished. Hopefully you’ll not need to ever act on it, but we’re here to help you build a plan that works for your business to ensure it can whether any storm.
Posted on October 15, 2015 by Dan Quick
So you’ve got a BCP, now what?
Good, you’ve decided to make yourself a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and are ready to move forward into the unknown with the comfort that comes from being protected. Smart move. But now you’ve begun to wonder if you’ve made it properly, if you’ve completely outlined your contingencies and how to proceed in an event that shuts down your office’s daily operations for a while. That’s to be expected. This is a big decision and could be the make-it-or-break-it maneuver for your company. Good thing for you, this is also one of our areas of expertise!
Communications Are Key
Like in almost anything, effective communications will be pivotal for success as part of your BCP. While each BCP is going to be tailored specifically to the business it is supposed to protect, there are a few essentials to consider. Conversely, unclear, panicked, or incomplete directions will not help the situation, and in many cases they only make things worse. That’s why it’s important to get these down early and well before they are needed to make sure your team hears what they need, when they need it most.
By leveraging the employee hotline feature of your automatic telephone failover system, PBX Parachute, you can give clear instructions that you’ve recorded prior to any emergency-taking place. Here are some items to be sure to cover therein-
- Make sure the first priority is that everyone gets to safety in the event of an emergency by directing them to the company’s standing emergency protocols
- Once everyone is safe and secure, instruct them to proceed to whatever rendezvous point you’ve established for a head-count and further instructions
- In the event of a total disaster, chain of command instructions are helpful reminders for your leaders to keep order and your team to know who to trust
- Remind them that all essential business will continue as is appropriate from alternate locations and that those employees will have already received instructions on how to access their work phones from their online portals
- Commit to recording any updated information as it comes available to this same hotline, or through whatever secondary method you’ve deemed best for you
Remember the Circumstances
Though there is a lot of ground to cover in the details of emergency messages, remind yourself that keeping it clear, calm, and concise will help your team almost more than anything else. Furthermore, making sure the information is current is important, so it is best to review it quarterly, yearly, or whenever you make changes to your safety protocol as appropriate.
Ideally your employees will never need to listen to this message, but that’s no reason to not have it. If you need help with this or any other aspect of your BCP and telephone failover management, we can help you get started with your disaster preparations. We’ve been protecting companies like yours for years and are eager to make sure you feel secure knowing you’ve got your work family taken care of.
Posted on October 2, 2015 by Dan Quick
For anyone on the Eastern Seaboard, this is nothing you should need a reminder on. However, because memories can be short, let me jog yours about what to expect as Hurricane Joaquin approaches the continental United States.
Sandy Left a Mark
If you were there in 2012, you know that almost 8 million homes and businesses were without power following Hurricane Sandy’s arrival, some going without electricity for over a week. Plus you needn’t look much further than that to get even more examples, from the Gulf Coast to New England, the Atlantic Hurricane Season (which runs from June through November) has traditionally wreaked havoc on the coastal states. The billions of dollars of damage that follow these events are exactly why local governments and emergency crews have been scrambling to prepare for Joaquin over the past few days. From New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declaring a state of emergency, to the cancellation of the Ironman triathlon in Maryland, to even the NFL announcing plans to potentially relocate or reschedule this weekend’s games, it’s clear that people everywhere are preparing for the worst. That said, what are you doing for your business?
Business Continuity for Profit Perpetuity
Words are fun, huh? Resonance aside, small and medium businesses don’t often have the luxury of alternate facilities in the country or emergency funds to gain access to during periods of heightened unpredictability. Therefore, a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is the best way an organization can protect itself during these and any other unforeseen development. Whether from Mother Nature, technical failures, or any other man-made event, losing access to your office can cost thousands of dollars a day and yet those losses can be avoided with a relatively small investment of time or money.
Among the many features in a traditional BCP are-
- Alternate location plans in the event of an evacuation
- Chain of command and contingent authority procedures
- Communications strategy for both employees and customers
It’s the final point there that can cost the most if overlooked. When there is no access to an office building, but all of the employees are fine and physically safe, why then should there be a need to interrupt operations? There shouldn’t be! If you have a cloud-based VoIP platform for your company, you’re already covered should you lose access to your building. If you are still using a traditional, on-site phone system, you can have all of the protection of a hosted system with the PBX Parachute business failover system from VirtualPBX.
Be There, From Anywhere
By mirroring only the parts of your business that you decide, PBX Parachute can keep essential, customer-facing departments up and running by enabling employees to access their company phone from anywhere they can get internet access. Also, you can program automatic triggering events where the PBX Parachute is deployed that include emergency messaging specific to the audience. This means you can have pre-recorded information accessible only to your company and another message for your customers that you can even remotely update as new information becomes available.
Getting started with your BCP by using PBX Parachute is as easy as it is important. To see how to get started or to learn more about the technology, contact one of our Business Continuity Experts today. In the meanwhile, batten down the hatches, man the mizzen mast, and start working on protecting your company today. Also, you should go back to reread those first two things with the voice of a pirate. Stay safe out there, mateys!