We can’t always see a disaster coming and small businesses are especially vulnerable as they may not have the time or knowledge to create a ‘what if’ strategy. It may be an accident or natural calamity. Just think about it for a moment. What would happen to your business if you had to shut it down for a day or a week or a month? The answer, clearly, is to make contingency plans. Small businesses can help themselves by ensuring that when catastrophe strikes they are in a position to ensure, wherever possible, that new clients can be serviced, existing customers remain and suppliers kept on side. By developing a Business Contingency Plan (BCP) businesses could be ready for anything.
It’s straightforward really. Establish within your organization a Disaster Recovery Team – regardless of the number of staff – of key individuals who know your business best and assign to them specific tasks and prioritize critical business functions and how quickly these must be recovered. Identify the risks. As an extreme example, consider the recent plight of Japan. These unforeseeable events affect us all.
Let’s consider communications. It is likely your business uses an IT system, possibly only for stock control and ordering but may also hold all your business contact details, including those of your insurance company! Windows is a popular operating system and if you use its backup utility you’ve already taken a step in the right direction, but where do you store this backup? Will it be easy to recover, say, from another temporary operating base which may be something as simple as a small industrial unit?
You will need to speak to your customers, but if your telephones and internet are down you’ll need an alternative that gives you the coverage you need and this is where the final frontier of space can help! Technology now allows access to the internet via satellite. This system makes use of a two way broadband connection and does not require a landline; there are no phone bills and the system delivers a permanent connection. A dish is needed coupled to a low noise block converter to beam your request to the satellite which responds and relays your service to you in much the same way your mobile phone does. Of course, set up costs for hardware may be in the region of £100/200 as a one off payment but monthly tariffs can start as low as £25 meaning you will always be in contact whatever happens locally.
Your BCP is a matter of common sense. You may decide that a branch office, at another location but sharing systems, is a consideration. Make sure your website is bang up to date and has all the information your customers and clients need, including emergency contact numbers. Arrange for your payroll to be a direct deposit to ensure your employees will get their money on time and perhaps keep cash on hand for immediate needs.
There are many options available to small businesses to help secure premises, working practices and the health and safety of employees. Consider a BCP and ensure that you won’t be one of the casualties.
Ben Daniels is a regular commentator on remote working and utilizing technology to further small business. He is currently working with a large Satellite ISP to raise awareness of Satellite Internet for rural business.