Technology can do a lot to mitigate disasters. What do SMEs need to know?

Technology can do a lot to mitigate disasters. What do SMEs need to know?

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John Woollam

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught business owners anything, it’s that just when you think the worst has happened, things can escalate. Planning for the worst when you’re living in unprecedented times can seem daunting, but there are a few tried, tested and well-understood techniques, supported by technology, that you can use to ensure you’re agile enough to see out pretty much anything.

It’s critical for businesses to make business continuity and disaster recovery plans if they hope to survive the worst.

A Mecer study conducted at the beginning of the pandemic indicated that about 51 percent of companies globally do not have a business continuity plan, despite their proven efficiency at mitigating risks and helping businesses to survive disasters.

Business continuity plans ensure that a business can keep going when something goes wrong — for example a fire, flood or cyber attack — while disaster recovery deals with recovering vital information and communications technology systems and infrastructure following a disaster — natural or man-made. These disciplines are closely interlinked. For smaller businesses, these have both been made much simpler by the advent of managed cloud computing services.

There are three big things you need to do take care of when it comes to business continuity and disaster recovery:

Back it up. If your IT systems are not cloud-based, you’re at risk if the physical hardware is destroyed or inaccessible. So if your email runs on a server in the corner of the office, or in a server room, or your employees have their emails downloaded to their laptops, it’s a risk. If everything is hosted on local hardware that is tied to and only accessible from a fixed location, it is at risk of being rendered inaccessible.

Keep regular backups of everything that is critical to running your business, from email and accounting to customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Schedule daily backups, and test them often. If you’re not sure what to back up, ask yourself what your business cannot survive without, and go from there. Ideally, things should be backed up to the cloud, but if you need physical backups, make sure they are stored in a facility that is safe from floods, fires and the like.

Take it to the cloud. Managed cloud services offer businesses a host of technology solutions that will fit pretty much any needs and budget. From backups and storage to ERP, CRM, accounting, office productivity and even cloud-based telephony and call centre solutions, there is very little — technology-wise — that cannot be hosted in the cloud. What this means for business continuity and disaster recovery is that as long as you have an internet connection and a device, you and your teams can reach your systems and carry on working.

Make sure it’s mobile. The weak point in this are your end user devices, if they’re not mobile. Desktop machines have their advantages, but they’re hard to move around, and if you can’t get to them, or they’re destroyed, they may as well not exist. Equipping your teams with laptops and smartphones can mean the difference between keeping going or closing. If you’re big enough and need to have people in central, physical locations, investigate paying for access to a disaster recovery site to ensure you have what you need to keep trading.

*John Woollam is the chief executive of Euphoria Telecom.

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