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Business continuity: five must-knows

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I’ve seen a number of real life business disasters. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • The server died at a company I once worked for. We ordered new parts and replacements – but they took ten working days to be delivered and installed. That meant we had no access to files or emails for ten days!
  • A terrorist incident once meant staff were unable to get into the office for a week.
  • The cleaner let two “staff” into the office early. They removed two brand new servers. This left the company without email and files for ten days until a replacement was fitted.
  • On numerous occasions the snow has meant that no-one could get into the office for several days. 

To eliminate the risk of business downtime, at little or no extra cost, here’s a few of my top tips: 

1. Give your employees the tools to work outside the office

This is as simple as supplying each employee with a laptop, dongle and smartphone so they can connect to the internet wherever they are, instead of going in search of limited wi-fi access. With the great number of smartphones on the market and the latest ranges of business apps such as goDocs and iWorks, you can now work on Microsoft Office documents quickly and efficiently offline or on your phone. 

2. Set up remote access

This is a fantastic idea in case you can’t make it into the office, allowing full functionality while on the go. A great piece of software called Team Viewer enables remote access and remote desktop-sharing over the internet. It’s so simple and easy to use, it can even be downloaded as an app for the iPhone and iPad. 

If I ran a company with fewer than 15 staff, I would run all my telephones on Skype. I don’t give anyone my desk number; I only use my mobile number and Skype. In fact, I don’t even know the number for the phone on my desk, I never use it! Running over the internet, you can make calls to landlines and mobiles as well as video conference calls, as long as you have camera capabilities on your computer, mobile or iPad, allowing you to work outside the office without your customers noticing the difference. 

3. Share your files online

Internal systems such as Dropbox and Google docs are fantastic. Firstly, they are free if you get the basic packages. Secondly, you can access the information wherever you are as long as you have a login and simple downloaded software. Thirdly, you can easily invite others to share this information. And lastly, in the event of system failure, you can easily download the software and rebuild onto new machines. 

4. Back up your data (off site)

The key to data back-up is to keep it off site. There are a number of cost effective back-up companies such as www.backblaze.com, which offer unlimited storage for £2.50 a month. You don’t need to pick folders and it runs in the background so there is no way you can forget to do it. 

Another great piece of software is OfficeRecovery – it allows you to recover Microsoft Office documents that are corrupt or lost when your computer crashes, which is priceless when you are up against it and don’t have time to re-write the documents or ask your IT department to recover it.

Companies such as salesforce.com also offer excellent customer CRM packages to make sure that if your system goes down, you can still maintain customer continuity even if everything isn’t so peachy in the office. 

5. Use hosted exchanges

If you are a business with fewer than 50 employees, don’t have a server in the office! It takes up space, it’s costly to manage and goes out of date very quickly. Hosted exchange is the way forward. It frees up space in the office, puts all your data into the cloud (so applications such as your email can be accessed anywhere) and if, in the worst-case scenario, the office burns down, all your information won’t be lost! 

In my mind, if you run a company with under 250 employees, you should get your email out of the office and out of the hands of your internal IT team. Hosted email is easy, fast, secure and works with BlackBerry and iPhone. With a great choice of business Google apps or Microsoft Exchange (hosted and delivered as a service) you then pay per user, per month. It’s available everywhere and there’s no backups to worry about.

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