In Business Communications, Don’t Just Plan for Disaster: Plan for Continuity

Business Continuity Plan by Robert Cooper

Whether you’re in the Scouts or in business, there’s always a reason to be prepared. Sure, running a company doesn’t mean you risk literally getting lost in the woods. But business owners still face risks that are nearly as severe, and that can and can leave their business just as lost. These can include pandemics, flooding, fires or even cyberattacks and will leave an organization out of commission.

So, what does preparedness mean in the context of potential office shutdowns? Really, it revolves around prioritizing one component of your business above all others: communications.

Yes, even more than internal data or expensive hardware, what keeps a business up and running is keeping the communications system up and running. In times of crisis especially, your comms system is simply too valuable to let go down, simply because too many business operations rely on your team being connected, both internally and externally.

To stay prepared for the absolute worst cases, it’s never enough to protect your communications with only backups and restore points. Instead, businesses need to plan for continuity — that is, a way to maintain normal business communications in any circumstance.

Communication Is Key, Even in a Crisis

As unglamorous as the field often seems, communications are a core pillar of any working enterprise. In a time of disaster, it’s not just your data or your hardware that you’ll most want access to. To actually recover from that emergency, you’ll need collaboration with your team, and that creates a dire need for internal communication.

External communications matter just as much, of course. When disaster strikes, customers want reassurance, too, and reaching out to clients during dire straits is a vital part of securing their loyalty. If your phone lines are totaled, however, those crucial partnerships are put at risk.

To illustrate this point, imagine your business suffers a dire disaster: Let’s say a fire hits your office, and it burns the place completely to the ground. No staff are hurt, thankfully, but all the hardware and equipment on premises are gone.

At that point, you’ll of course you’ll immediately begin communicating. (Perhaps you’ll also want to start working on insurance claims and considering another workspace.) But I guarantee that just as much, you’ll want to reorganize your team with a plan on how to keep working, and where. That’s to say nothing of how you’ll need a way to stay in touch with customers.

However, to satisfy these requirements, it’s not enough to simply switch over to personal devices or networks in a time of crisis. There’s a difference between being truly seamless in your communications and patching whatever holes disasters have punched into your phone lines — and both your customer base and employees will notice it.

Switching Isn’t Sufficient

I say this to preempt a response that plenty of business owners have lined up for disaster scenarios: “We’ll just move staff over to their cell phones.”

There’s a whole lot wrong with this approach, not the least of which is the simple matter of investment. Your communications system is something you’ve paid a lot to build and maintain, and it serves as a core part of how your business delivers value. Suddenly swapping out that system for personal cell phone numbers simply cannot deliver the same value, no matter how on top of communications your staff may be.

Specifically, making a switch of this nature will inevitably impact your business in three key ways:

1. Employee usability

As much as staff are likely used to placing calls and sending messages on their own devices, communicating for business purposes is a whole different sport. If employees are suddenly required to work on their personal devices — or some alternative communications method — they’ll have to struggle through using an entirely different interface and environment for on-the-job communications, translating to far lower operational efficiency.

2. Security

Related to usability, but no less significant, is the matter of security. Most off-the-shelf consumer devices will have some kind of security in place, such as VPNs. However, business-grade security requires significantly more measures than what these devices provide. Furthermore, consumer options are clunkier and harder to use than business-grade alternatives. Not only will these measures do little to stop cybersecurity threats, they’ll create a less responsive, less intuitive experience for employees.

3. Customer experience

Next up, what happens when customers try to call in? Even if you reach out to specific clients about your situation and give them staff’s personal numbers (or whatever other workaround solution you’ve come up with), it’s far from easy on their end to temporarily change their procedures or update contact numbers for entire databases. But there will also be clients you didn’t pass the memo to, or of newcomers who try to reach you via the old contacts left over in ads or your website.

4. Business intelligence & data

The last two points allude to a larger drawback: personal communication systems simply are not designed for business decision-making. Even if staff settle on a way of communicating over phones and other stop-gap systems, those solutions won’t track and log the same information on communications that an effective business comms system does. This renders all time spent working under these systems as a “dark period” in your business intelligence, where there’s no usable information on how staff and customers interacted.

If all that takes place after an outage is a basic switch over to personal devices — without a robust communications system driving it — your “business as usual” won’t be very “usual” at all. Actually, you’ll suffer enormous setbacks that will harshly impact operations, customer relations and your future business planning.

The real solution to disaster planning is one that’s simple in idea, but more complex in execution: using a system that doesn’t go down in the first place.

Continuity Is the Counter

Specifically, what you want to have on your side is a plan for continuity in the sense of maintaining use of your existing communications system.

Preparedness for your communications is about more than just restoring a backup or switching over to personal cell networks. Any real effective comms system is one that has measures to prevent it from going down in the first place — yes, even if your whole office burns down.

The idea of continuity works exactly with this concept in mind, and it’s exactly the principle that should drive your communications infrastructure. What I mean here is a total continuation of usability, even in the worst of disasters. Instead of restoration or a rushed switch to personal cell networks, truly effective preparation entails building your system with constant uptime in mind.

Go back to that earlier example: Your office has just burned to the ground. What’s next?

Under the usual plan, everyone hops onto personal smartphones and shares their numbers far and wide, sewing exactly the confusion and inefficiency outlined above. That’s on top of work time lost due to having to reload contact info into personal phones, or simply due to no longer having those contacts on hand after your system goes out.

But suppose that switch doesn’t have to happen at all. What if, instead, employees could simply hop onto other devices and pick up right where they left off as if the office was still there?

That’s not a pipe dream — that’s just simple business continuity in action. And it has a very clear way of coming into practice.

A Sounder Foundation

Specifically, any reliable vision of continuity in communications rests on three main principles:

  • Untethered Access: The system should use cloud capabilities to make the system accessible from any location, all without being fixed to a specific space or piece of hardware.
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Design: The system should be accessible through any device, anywhere, any time — all without downloads for instant user-friendly adoption.
  • Secure By Design: The system should be inherently secure without requiring the user to turn on or activate any additional protections to provide more convenient communications.

Working in tandem, these principles allow for business communications to happen any time, any place. Untethered access ensures the system both exists and is accessible from anywhere, while BYOD design lets users actually reach that system with just a simple login. And finally, Secure by Design gives you peace of mind that you are not placing your company or your customers at risk, all while enjoying the most user-friendly interface possible.

Now, take a system like that, and just one more time, go back to that burned-down office: You’ve filed insurance claims, all staff are accounted for, but you still know for a fact that all your hardware has gone up in smoke. What’s next?

With continuity in place, all that’s next is business as usual. Employees hop on whatever devices are available — laptops, phones, you name it — log into their accounts, and just like that, your office is still operational. Minus the insurance agents, it’s all as if your office never caught fire in the first place.

Wildix, Built for Continuity

There’s no underselling the advantage a setup like that gives you, and it’s exactly why Wildix has been a firm believer in continuity from the very beginning. Business continuity is synonymous with smart working, which Wildix has long been a perfect fit for; the two principles go hand in hand, serving as a means to access business communications anywhere, any time.

But that same design philosophy drives Wildix as a solution built for those worst-case scenarios: because it’s designed to be accessed from the browser, with a system hosted fully in the cloud, Wildix serves as a core pillar of business value even when the world deals your business an awful hand.

It’s never pleasant to think about ending up in one of those losing scenarios, of course. But when one comes along, you’ll always be more glad you did — assuming you followed through on the right degree of disaster preparation. A system like Wildix, designed for continuity, will help lay down the architecture for that degree of preparedness.

When you’re in the middle of a crisis, the first thing to make things worse still is to be caught without a way to reassure and reorganize. Continuity is a highly relevant part of business conversations today, but it cannot be limited to data and systems alone; that principle of operational preparedness and continuity must be built into your business communications platform.

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