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Stephen Barclay, Sales Director

Stephen Barclay, Sales Director

The sun might be out at the moment, but with only 20 weeks left of 2016 we’ll very soon find ourselves in the midst of The Great British Winter and the onslaught of bad weather that this usually brings. For the business owner, this can be extremely costly and not just to the bottom line. Lower staff productivity, absenteeism and damage to infrastructure all have a disrupting impact on business continuity.

In fact, the Chartered Management Institute reported that 77% of organisations were adversely affected by the heavy snowfall experienced during the winter of 2012 when 63% of people were unable to go to work because of travel disruption; 46% of people had issues with school closures/childcare; 43% of external meetings and business trips were cancelled; 40% suffered loss of IT and 27% suffered loss of telecoms.

The key to business continuity in the face of any disaster – be it fire, flood or equipment failure – is to have a robust disaster recovery plan. And given the old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’, adopting an agile and forward-thinking operational strategy – one that takes advantage of the technology now available, rather than sticking with traditional but inflexible connectivity solutions – works wonders too. As a reseller, describing modern connectivity solutions in terms of business continuity / disaster recovery places you in good stead as a ‘go-to’ business partner. If you’re going to implement this strategy with your own customers, here’s a guide on what you need to cover.

Telecoms

We all know that traditional telecoms solutions are based on fixed systems – the number is connected to a static line and handset, which means that employees have to be in the same physical location to make use of it. If they have been unable to get to work due to bad weather, incoming calls are unanswered which could result in missed opportunities, lost customers or, worse, damage to the business’s reputation.

VoIP solutions, on the other hand, are incredibly flexible. Even the most basic installation only requires a functioning broadband connection along with either a VoIP enabled phone, a traditional phone with a VoIP adapter (ATA- Analogue Terminal Adapter) or a computer, tablet or smartphone with VoIP software (softphone). When employees are prevented from making it to work, calls can be redirected to any alternative number quickly and without interrupting the customer experience. In other words, anyone can dial the office number as usual and still get to speak to the person that they wanted to, regardless of their location. The benefit? An answered call means that opportunities are not missed, customers aren’t lost and brand integrity is maintained.

Data Connectivity

In addition to telecoms, employees need access to core applications normally accessed over a Local Area Network (LAN) – email, databases etc – in order to perform their jobs effectively. The good news is that these too can be accessed regardless of location. With an IP VPN (Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network, also known as a Private Wide Area Network (PWAN)) users can access documents, systems and data as quickly and securely as if they were within the LAN. Aside from the clear business benefit that staff are able to work effectively from wherever they are, the ability for business leaders to focus on core business functions (instead of worrying about IT infrastructure availability) at a time of crisis should never be underestimated.

IP VPNs usually use a communication provider’s core network (such as the Entanet network) and can be accessed using the range of Internet technologies from ADSL to leased lines. However, given the reports that traditional copper based connections are susceptible to water damage (even FTTC; when street cabinets flood the electronics fail), fully-fibre solutions not routed through a street cabinet are a more resilient choice.

Hosting & Colocation

With staff able to access work systems and telephones from any location, the final piece of the disaster recovery / business continuity jigsaw (at least as far as operations is concerned) is maintaining access to business-critical software. There are statistics galore on how business can be significantly damaged – both in the pocket and in terms of operating days lost – when trying to retrieve data following a man-made or natural disaster. This is where managed hosting or colocation services come into their own, providing peace of mind to business leaders and IT managers in times of crisis.

When a business arranges their hosting on a managed basis, they are effectively handing over the responsibility for the monitoring and maintenance of their web systems to their chosen provider. As part of this, the provider has a duty to ensure that processes and procedures are in place to safeguard the data of its customers. And given that managed hosting requires no capital expenditure (usually the cost is factored into the opex budget) and has a very low ongoing human resource cost, it is ideal for smaller and newer businesses.

With colocation on the other hand, the business keeps responsibility for its own hardware and software and is also responsible for setting up and configuring both. What is outsourced is the space in a data centre, power & cooling, IP addresses and a connection to the network and thus the Internet. The benefit is that by locating servers off-site in a highly secure, controlled and continuously monitored environment, businesses are able to maintain a rigorous disaster recovery strategy by the simple virtue that the data centre is not the business’s primary location.

How you can help

Knowledge is a wonderful thing and when considering disaster recovery / business continuity it helps to understand what keeps your customer up at night. Armed with this information, (in conjunction with your expertise and access to a reliable wholesale provider of course) you can start to design appropriate solutions. Remember that, should you want it, our Pre-Sales Technical Consultants are available to help you design, cost and even present potential solutions to your customers, further emphasising the strength and reach that your business has within the market.

Have your say!

Of course there are many elements of disaster recovery / business continuity that haven’t been discussed in this post – if you’re interested in finding out more, let us know! Similarly, if you have any interesting anecdotes or experiences to share about providing disaster recovery solutions to your customers we’d love to hear about them, so why not leave a comment below?

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