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Business Continuity - Can your business survive the Winter?Business Continuity, Is your business disaster proof?

Do we really need Business Continuity for Small Businesses? The snow and general bad weather, at the beginning of the year in the UK, meant that many people were unable to get into work for a while. Did you loose business as a result of the weather because you weren’t able to get the phones answered, you weren’t able to deal with email or were unable to get into the office for a while?

Whilst, for the UK at least, the weather conditions were unusual there are several other problems that can cause similar problems for your business. Most people think of the major disasters, like flood or fire but what about a power cut or your ADSL line being down.

There is no reason why you should loose business as with the technology available today you can have access to email, your phone system and even your PC in the office from almost anywhere that has Internet connectivity. So how can we provide Business Continuity for Small Businesses?

What does a Small Business Continuity Solution need to provide?

How does a Business Continuity solution work and what are the minimum services that it needs to provide? Think about the way that you do business on a day to day basis, do you recieve a lot of phone calls, is most of your customer communication via email?

Make sure that your primary ways of doing business are covered, typically the immediate concern is managing existing customers and prospects – i.e. Can we continue to ‘Do Business’ ?

So for 90% of Small Companies that is:-

  • Send and receive email
  • Answering the Phones
  • Generate Invoices

Below are some of the methods that you can use to make sure that you have a business which can survive a disaster and have a viable Business Continuity plan in place.

email access methods

Webmail

If you have a laptop, or webmail access, you have probably been able to keep up with your business email, even if you haven’t been able to get into the office. One of the big advantages of email systems is that, typically, you can get access to them from anywhere that you can get an Internet connection. That is certainly true of things like Hotmail, Googlemail or Exchange Online, where all you need is a web browser.

Most companies that use Microsoft Exchange, or Small Business Server (SBS), will also provide webmail access through Outlook Web Access (OWA). OWA allows you to send email and read your company email from any web browser, you can also look at your calendar etc, just as though you were using Outlook in the office. If you don’t have access to any form of company webmail then its worth talking with your IT department to see if they will set provide you access to OWA.

Mobile devices

If you have a Blackberry, iPhone or Windows Mobile device (SmartPhones) then you can probably get access to your company email on that. In most cases it is a relatively simple task to configure SmartPhones to work via your Exchange Server and to send and receive your company email.

Don’t forget that if you send email via OWA or your SmartPhone and its going via your Exchange server then you will have a copy saved in your sent mail items and, if your signatures are applied on the server, then your email will get all of the correct footers, branding etc. that it would have if you sent if from your desktop machine in the office.

Hosted Exchange

Hosted Exchange is now a scalable, cost effective solution especially for Small Businesses. Microsoft have entered the hosted market and offer Exchange Online, either on its own or as part of its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

In the UK you can get Microsoft BPOS for £6.71 a month, per user or just Exchange Online for £3.36 a month, per user. There is a minimum number of 5 users.

BPOS is a great way of providing a low cost, scalable, robust, enterprise grade, Business Continuity solution for small businesses.

Business Continuity and Phone Systems

If you use a hosted VoIP phone system, then you can easily make and receive calls from anywhere that you have an Internet connection. These calls will appear to come from the office number and will get billed to the office rather than your home phone number. So in the bad weather you can work from home and appear to be in the office. Even if the power is out in your office using a hosted VoIP solution means that your calls will still get delivered, as all of the redirection is carried out in the hosted PBX. If you have a softphone on your PC then the calls don’t even need to get redirected they just get delivered to your softphone.

If you don’t have Internet connectivity then its simple enough to make a phone call and get your calls re-directed to your mobile phone or home phone. There is no need not to be able to receive the office phone calls even if no-one can get into the office to answer the phone.

You can even use the Hosted VoIP solution to make sure that all of your calls still appear to originate from the office number, even if you are using your mobile to make the calls. What happens in practice is that our Hosted PBX calls your mobile, then dials the number you want to talk to – as soon as they answer the calls are connected. Its really simple to configure, in just 2 mouse clicks and is included in your base cost.

Call Me Now

Click to call meClick on the Call Me Icon, on the left, and enter your phone number and we will call you right back to discuss your requirements. Call Me is a standard part of the Voiplicity phone system, so is something that you will be able to do on your website with just a few mouse clicks.

So we can provide Business Continuity for your phone system, from anywhere with Internet access.

Off-Site Backup

As part of a Business Continuity plan we to need to consider what you would do if the office was destroyed. If you have gone done the route of Hosted Email and VoIP then you will probably be able to continue to ‘do business’, but what about all of your company records, customer details, contracts etc? How are you going to be able to access that information if the office no longer exists?

Data Backup

You should have off-site copies of your computer backups, after all there is no point in keeping your backup copy next to the server. At a minimum the daily backups should be held off site in a secure location. That could mean taking the daily tape home and keeping it safe, or using of of the many Online Backup services.

Online Backup

An Online Backup, or Hosted Backup, service will continually take copies of your data and ship it to a secure data center. Depending on the service you subscribe to this could be a continuous backup, or scheduled on a daily basis.

Most of the services allow for a local copy of the data and the off site copy. The local copy allows you to quickly restore files in the event someone accidentally deletes a file. The off-site, or hosted copies, are for disaster recovery / Business Continuity in case the office gets destroyed.

Hosted Services

If you use Microsoft BPOS, Google Apps, or any of the other hosted services then your data is held in a secure data center. It will actually be held in multiple geo located data centers, so your data is secure. In this case you can continue to work and not need to worry about your data. You also have access to your applications from anywhere in addition to having a copy of your data.

One thing about Hosted Service and Online backup services, make sure that you select a vendor who will host your data in your country, or legislative area. The reason for this is that not all countries have the same approach to Data Security and Data Protection, so you want your data where it is covered by the same data protection laws as your business.

Remote PC Access

You can also use systems like LogMeIn, GoToMyPC or the functionality built into Remote Management Systems like SystemAssure that will let you access your office PC from a web browser. Typically this type of application will let you print on your local, home, printer and also copy files and documents between your office PC and your home PC. If you are a BPOS user you wouldn’t even need access to your Office PC, as all of you data will be stored within the SharePoint Online section of BPOS.

So whatever the weather, if its snow, floods or even if you want to sunbath in the back garden rather than go into the office there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do everything that you can do from the office. You can either do this will a combination of different applications that you put together yourself or let SystemAssure take the strain and do the work for you.

Business Continuity For Small Businesses

Yes it is entirely possible to provide your small business with a cost effective Business Continuity solution. By doing this properly you also increase the scalability of your business and also remove the need to ‘step’ investments in hardware as your business grows.

Planning Business Continuity for Small Businesses from day one can dramatically reduce your need for capital investment and also give you flexibility in work practices.

Need Assistance with Business Continuity planning?

If you would like assistance in designing and  implementing a Business Continuity plan for your small business then please contact me through the SystemAssure Website.

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