Business continuity planning for different operational capacities

Business continuity is an unpleasant topic by nature. The only reason to discuss business continuity is that it’s possible that something—some kind of legitimate disaster—could risk the operational capacity of your company.

Produced in Partnership with VMWare

That’s not a fun thought.

But planning for a potential disaster truly can make a difference when things go sideways. The SMBs that have a plan have a much better chance of surviving. The ones that don’t have to fight tooth and nail to make it . . . and even then, their chances aren’t good.

So let’s consider what it will take to keep you up and running no matter what.

“[Your business continuity] plan should cover how to reestablish office productivity and enterprise software so that key business needs can be met.”


Why operational capacities matter

Operational capacity” refers to what you can produce in a given amount of time. Your operational capacity depends on a lot of things—resources, efficiency and staffing are key elements. Even if you’ve never used the term “operational capacity,” you think about it every day.

After all, we’re talking about getting the things done that need to be done to make your business profitable. Clearly, that’s a concept that matters a great deal.

Produced in Partnership with VMWare

How operational capacities are affected in a disaster

During a disaster, the things your operation capacity depend on are thrown off balance.

You may lose critical resources—anything from technical systems you rely on to physical materials you use to create products. Your staff is affected, both emotionally and pragmatically. Some of them may not even be able to work. And all of that dramatically impacts your efficiency.

Even if you have all the resources and staff you’d normally have, any changes to standard business process as a result of a disaster (like working from an alternate location) can slow production down.

The goal of business continuity is to minimize the negative impact of crippling situations. A strong business continuity plan will enable you to continue to serve your customers, even in the midst of challenging circumstances.

“Surprisingly, more than 1 in 3 businesses admit they don’t have a disaster recovery policy in place, a figure that is even higher amongst smaller businesses where an estimated 3 out of 4 are reported to have no contingency measures at all.”


Practical steps you can take to maintain minimum operational capacities

Perhaps the most difficult thing about taking operational capacities into account when developing your business continuity plan is this: operational capacities are different for every business. What’s slow for you might be really fast for one of your competitors.

There’s no universal standard, so the practical things you need to do to plan for operational capacities will be unique to your business. For that reason, it can be really helpful to talk to a business continuity expert (possibly your managed IT services provider) to ask for help with these important plans.

With or without the help of a pro, here’s what you need to take into account in your business continuity plan.

Determine your baseline

As we noted above, operational capacity is specific to your business. So first things first—you need to know your baseline. What’s the minimum amount you need to produce to keep the core pieces of your business in good shape?

We’re focused on the minimum because disasters may require you to scale back some operations. Think in terms of customer impact and overall operational health. There are undoubtedly processes you could skip for a short time without lasting damage.

Identify critical processes

Similarly, you need to know what your most critical processes are. These are likely the processes that core parts of the business rely on. They may not seem urgent, but if you don’t attend to these, the wheels come off.

For example, maintaining your website may not seem like the most important thing in the middle of an emergency. But what if that’s the primary way your customers contact you? Now keeping your website online is important. You need a plan for ensuring that it’s live and that your staff can respond to customer inquiries.

Cross-train your employees

Every business has a few employees who are linchpins. Without them, you’d be sunk.

The problem with that is obvious, though. What if one of those people is unable to pitch in during a disaster? Then you’re in real trouble. The solution is simple enough. Cross-train.

Every critical role should have at least one backup person. This ensures there’s someone ready and willing to step in should you need them to.

Document everything

Finally, document absolutely everything—your baseline, your critical processes, your plan for maintaining critical processes, the critical staffing roles, and the backup person(s) for each critical role.

Keep this documentation with the rest of your business continuity plan, and review it periodically to make sure it’s still relevant, accurate and valid.

Produced in Partnership with VMWare

Keep reading: Business continuity: A crash course

How the 3-2-1 backup strategy could save your business next time it floods

Spring 2019 is one for the record books. Unfortunately, the records being set are not the kind anyone wants.

Earlier in the year, experts predicted that flooding throughout the Midwest could easily be the worst since 1993—and that’s saying something. Already, we’ve seen severe storms, tornadoes and epic flooding. The damage has been extensive, and the area affected spans multiple states.

If your home or business has suffered damage, our hearts go out to you.

“This spring has been a season of record-breaking floods across the Midwest, submerging farms, businesses and houses.” – The New York Times

What you can do to better prepare

Everyone in the ISG family is invested in our community, and we hate to see so many scrambling to prepare at the last minute. That concern has prompted us to ask ourselves what we can do to help.

There are pragmatic, real-world things we’re doing—like making our resources available on standby and working with businesses to try to protect their digital assets before the rising flood waters damage their servers. But we know we can do something more, as well. We can offer some of our insight to help everyone prepare for the next time we face damaging weather like this.

The best way we know to prep for emergencies is with a thorough backup plan. In our industry, there’s even a rule: the 3-2-1 rule. We’re going to cover it in this article and give you some pointers for applying it to your business.

Our goal is simple. We want to help as many local businesses as possible get ready for the next time we face the threat of floods, tornadoes or other major storm events.

RELATED: How to build a disaster management plan

3-2-1 backup

3-2-1 backup is all about protecting one of your company’s most valuable assets—your data. Most of your physical assets can be replaced, but your data is unique. If you lose it, you may not be able to get it back.

The 3-2-1 rule is a solid way to ensure your data is safe, no matter what. Here’s what it means. You should have 3 copies of your data, 2 of those copies should be local and stored on different devices, and one should be offsite.

3 copies

Why 3 copies? Because the nature (and value) of a backup strategy is paranoia. The goal is to make sure you never lose all your data at once. Keeping 3 copies of it makes it highly unlikely that you’ll lose it all in one fell swoop.

But really, the magic of the 3-2-1 backup strategy is as much about where your data is stored as how many copies of it you keep.

2 on-site copies

Most likely, one of your two on-site copies is the copy you work with every day. This is the data on your desktop, laptop or shared drive. These are the documents and spreadsheets you turn to when you’re working on your computer.

The second on-site copy should be the local backup of your production data. That way, if something happens to your computer, for example, you’ve got a full backup right there, ready to go.

But there’s a potential problem with this plan. Think about the flooding we’re dealing with right now. What if your entire office is overrun with water? There’s a good chance you’ll lose both of those local copies.

What then?

RELATED: What to cover in your business continuity plan

1 off-site copy

That’s why a third, off-site backup is so important.

Your off-site backup is your failsafe. No matter what happens to your local copies, your off-site should be unaffected. The only downside of this third copy is that off-site backups typically take quite a bit more time to restore than on-site backups.

And that’s why you want both on-site and off-site backups. If the on-site backup is good, you can restore your data from it quickly. But if the on-site backup is destroyed, you still have your data, even if it takes a bit longer to restore it.

You never know

Backup matters because we simply never know when something is going to go sideways on us. Even with predictions earlier this year, there was no way to know for sure whether the floods we’re seeing now would actually happen.

And now that they are happening, the companies that were prepared have one less thing to worry about during this tense, stressful time.

Backup your data. Use the 3-2-1 rule. If you need help, reach out to a backup expert. Just don’t leave yourself exposed to the possibility of total data loss.

KEEP READING: The complete DIY disaster recovery guide for SMBs

The pros and cons of video conferencing: Is it right for your business?

Business technology experts have been talking about video conferencing for a while. Some companies embraced it years ago, while others remain skeptical. Is it worth the hassle of learning something new and changing process? Is it really all that different from an audio conference call?

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of video conferencing. (Spoiler: There are far more pros than cons.) We’ll even close things out with a few questions you can ask to determine right nowtodayif video conferencing is a good fit for your company.

What we love about video conferencing

If you’re wary, we understand. Embracing new technology is always a bit of a pain, even when the payoff is big.

But there’s a lot to love about video conferencing.

It’s definitely better than voice-only conference calls

Video conferencing adds a completely missing dimension to communication that can be critical for business meetings and collaboration sessions. Consider this. According to Psychology Today, “The belief is that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken.”

How much of the conversation are you missing if you only hear someone’s voice?

It helps build connections

A recent Forbes article asserts that video conferencing “translates into closer relationships—even between team members or clients who have yet to meet in person.”

Here’s the thinking. When you meet someone face-to-face, you feel like you know them better because you can put a face to their voice. Video conferencing allows for the same sense of closeness, making it possible for coworkers and customers to feel closer, even at a distance.

It allows for easy collaboration

Video conferencing works beautifully with collaboration-enhancing tools, like virtual whiteboards and shared documents. Pairing up video with these tools makes it possible to conduct productive brainstorming sessions, even if the participants are on the other side of the globe.

It’s cheaper than footing the bill for travel costs

Travel costs money. Plane tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals are unarguably expensive, but so is a trip across town.

Think about it. Your time is valuable. If you have to spend an hour in traffic going to and from a 30-minute meeting, you’re investing 5 times the amount of time in that meeting than you really need to be. Wouldn’t it be better much of the time to handle non-critical meetings via video?

There are free options (to get you started)

There are free video conferencing options, like Microsoft Teams, that you can try out at literally no cost—assuming you have some very basic equipment like webcams. If you don’t have the basic hardware, it’s not super expensive.

This makes it possible to test the waters without going all in on some conference room of the future that will set you back thousands.

“For businesses, it used to be that a video conferencing system cost $50,000 to $100,000 and was only used for executives. Now, it can be in any conference room for $1,000 to $2,000.”

Yale Insights

Where video conferencing falls short

As great as video conferencing is, it’s not perfect. Here are some of the areas where it falls short.

Quality systems cost money

As a recent article notes, “What people want is a sweet spot of great audio and video at a consumerized price and usability.” In other words, the webcam and microphone on your work laptop are not really ideal for regular video conference meetings.

If you’re going to make video conferencing a regular occurrence, you will need to budget for it.

It takes coordination

While you can just pop into someone’s office for a quick conversation, video conferencing takes at least a little planning. At first, that may feel inconvenient. We believe it’s a small price to pay for the overwhelming advantages, but it’s still worth noting.

People have to get used to it

Any time you introduce your staff to new technology, there will be a learning curve. Some people will fall in love with video conferencing from day one just because it’s shiny and new. Others will hate it from the start because they have to change how they work.

How to determine if video conferencing is right for your business

The real question is this: Is video conferencing right for your business?

Here are a few questions to help you make that call.

  • Do you have remote workers on your staff?
  • Does your business have multiple locations?
  • Do you work with any priority clients who are out of town (or even across town)?
  • Do you or other staff members travel often for work?
  • Do you or your staff have a lot of collaborative meetings?
  • Do you feel it’s important for your business to be up-to-date on the latest technology?

If you answered yes to even one of those questions, you should at least consider video conferencing. If you’re not sure where to start, your managed IT services provider or VoIP partner can likely point you in the right direction.

Keep reading: Everything you need to know about VoIP phone systems

Mitigating disaster risk and downtime for hospitals

In July 2018, Blount Memorial Hospital in Tennessee had a nightmare experience. Their electronic health records (EHR) system was offline for three days. During that time, 90 doctors were unable to access patient records.

Appointments were canceled. People didn’t receive care.

When the whole thing was said and done, the hospital’s board of directors made the decision to invest in a $30,000 backup system to ensure nothing like that would ever happen again.

What’s at risk

Hospitals and other medical services businesses are in a unique position when it comes to disaster recovery and downtime readiness. This isn’t just a matter of lost profits, damage to your reputation, or inconvenience for your employees and customers. The health and wellness of people are at stake.

As a result, every kind of medical services provider has an obligation to go above and beyond to mitigate the risk of downtime and prepare for possible disasters.

Practical measures

In advising these businesses about disaster recovery, the core of our standard advice is the same for hospitals, physician practices and other medical businesses. Prepare. Don’t just wait for disaster to strike. Have a plan.

When it comes to the medical industry, there are specific forms of preparation that are uniquely important. Below are some of the things medical providers should do to lower the risk of downtime and prepare for outages.

Expect downtime

First and foremost, let go of any expectation that downtime won’t happen to you. Your hospital isn’t exempt. Your office isn’t the exception. Downtime happens to just about every business. It can (and will) happen to yours.

That’s an important step in preparation because you won’t take a disaster recovery and downtime plan seriously if you think you’ll never have to use it.

Create a communications plan

A communications plan is essential for any disaster recovery plan. Your doctors and staff need to know whom to contact, how communications will be conducted, which channels will be used for what purpose, and what communication activity is most essential in the event of downtime.

Be specific. Spell out exactly who should be in contact with whom, and make sure everyone knows the plan well ahead of time. Update it when you have changes in your system, your policies and in your personnel, if appropriate.

Develop a downtime toolkit

Downtime toolkits “contain paper copies of clinical documents and procedures to follow when their EHR is not available.” A downtime toolkit may also include a read-only database of patient records as an emergency backup system.

This is a critical resource, but one that absolutely requires the help of an IT consultant. A doctor’s office that deals in non-emergency care may not need a full downtime toolkit, but every hospital should have some kind of system for continuing to provide healthcare, even if the entire local network goes offline.

Consider an on-site fallback generator

On-site generators can help in situations where a power outage is to blame for downtime. However, power outages are only one of several things that can take an IT network offline. While an on-site generator certainly makes sense (particularly for critical care facilities), this alone will not protect your hospital from every form of downtime.

Perform downtime drills

EHR simulation drills will give you an idea of how prepared your hospital’s staff are, and they will give your staff a chance to understand and experience what to expect when the real thing strikes.

As a recent article in EHR Intelligence notes, “Strategizing to fill gaps in care that crop up during EHR downtime simulations can help to reduce the risk of slowdowns, delays, threats to patient harm, or billing problems during real instances of EHR downtime.”

Enlist some help

Finally, no hospital should be without professional help when it comes to downtime readiness and a disaster recovery plan. If your in-house IT department isn’t fully prepared to take on this crucial task, find an IT consultant with experience supporting the healthcare industry to help you and your team.

With the right preparation, downtime won’t stop your hospital or medical practice from providing the care your patients rely on.

Must-have features of video conferencing for UC

Quality video conferencing solutions are essential for most modern-day offices. Web conferencing keeps remote team members engaged, enables seamless collaboration, and connects your business on a more personal basis with partners and clients over the internet.

So, if you’re in the market for an online meeting platform, let’s discuss the six top must-have features.

1. Easy document sharing

Whether you’re chatting with a team member or meeting with a potential client, easy, in-built document sharing is a must. You shouldn’t have to resort to emailing an agenda, presentation, or brochure.

It’s also worth looking for flexible document sharing features as there may be times when you want to share a document with a select segment of video conference participants.

2. Flexible chat

All web conferencing software offers some sort of chat, giving attendees the ability to type messages, share links, and collaborate effectively. But some lack the flexibility to enable specific types of chat. For example, you may wish to send private messages to individual attendees, or you may need to moderate chat messages before they are visible to all participants.

3. Practical reporting tools

Practical reporting tools can give you access to the information you need (such as attendance and typed messages) to optimize your web conferencing practices. Even better, you should be able to export this data to your file sharing platform, a Microsoft Excel format or your CRM system.  

4. Desktop sharing

Screen sharing is an essential part of video conferencing, but it’s not as simple as mirroring your desktop. There are three key factors to consider:

  • Speed. Oftentimes, desktop sharing results in a drastic slowdown of your computer’s performance and can impact the quality and reliability of the video conference.
  • Power. Desktop sharing shouldn’t use up too much of your computer’s CPU, as this can also drastically reduce the quality and experience of your presentation.
  • Accessible. Desktop sharing should pass through most firewalls.

5. No software installs required

If you’re looking to work with an individual or group outside of your team, make it easy and convenient for remote collaborators and attendees to connect via video conferencing.

To do this, opt for a video conferencing platform that allows others to connect in minimal steps. For example, many platforms offer a browser-based option, so outside parties don’t need to download any software onto their devices.

6. Reliability

Reliability is perhaps the most important feature of any web conferencing solution. Regardless of tools and capabilities, if the platform you choose is unable to offer near 100% uptime and automatic correction of connectivity issues, it just isn’t worth it. 

Near-enough isn’t good enough when it comes to video conferencing. After all, what would you do if your video dropped out halfway through an important meeting or webinar?

Bonus tips for finding the right video conferencing solution for your business

Now that you know which features to keep an eye out for, here are some additional tips to ensure the video conferencing solution you choose meets your business needs. Your managed IT services provider can help you work through these tips.

1. How many participants will you be hosting?

Consider how many participants you will likely be hosting on a regular basis. Some services offer a cheaper rate for a web conferencing solution with a smaller attendee capacity. Other services specialize in large groups and options vary accordingly. If you don’t consider the number of participants you’ll be hosting, you could end up paying for features you don’t need or missing the ones you don’t have.

2. What types of meetings will you be hosting?

Do you need video conferencing software to connect remote team members to the central office? Or, do you need video conferencing software to host larger-scale webinars, Q&A forums, or sales presentations? If you host a variety of meeting types, look for a conferencing solution that can cater to all of these needs.

3. Is mobile experience important?

If it’s your remote team you are trying to connect, chances are that mobile compatibility is important. What’s more, if host regular webinars, offering your presentation on mobile could increase your attendance rate.

Benefits of superior business continuity management and how to enhance it

Having a business continuity plan isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. If disaster strikes, you have to get back up and running as soon as possible. As a small business, you can’t afford downtime or its negative impact on your operations and your customers.

That’s why business continuity management is critical. It looks beyond dealing with the emergency itself—whether that’s a natural disaster or cyberattack—and takes into account what is required to get everything up and running again. Business continuity management is more than just a risk management process and data backup, it’s part of having a sustainable, reliable and thriving business.

Benefits of a superior business continuity management plan

Let’s look at some of the key benefits of having a superior business continuity plan.

Reducing financial risk

Consider this—according to a recent survey, 80% of businesses require a guaranteed uptime of 99.99% from their cloud service vendors. This correlates to about an hour of downtime annually, which can cost a business as much as $260,000. The further you can minimize any downtime, the less risk you run of losing money.

Preserving your reputation

Your reputation is on the line. In addition to operating losses, repeated occurrences of downtime can cause erosion of your brand. Your customers and partners could lose confidence in your ability to serve them, damaging your business relationships and referrals.

Delivering on expectations for recovery

With a comprehensive business continuity plan, you can also enable the recovery of mission-critical systems in the agreed timeframe. This sets expectations for your staff, your customers, and others. Having this well documented puts a threshold on what’s an acceptable timeframe to get back up and going. According to a recent ransomware report, 96% of businesses with a plan in place fully recover operations.

Complying with legal obligations

Another benefit is compliance with any legal or statutory obligations. Depending on your industry or the industries you serve, you may have to meet certain guidelines for business continuity. For example, financial firms have more and different regulations than other types of businesses.

Even if you are not legally obligated to meet certain standards, proving to stakeholders that you are running your business responsibly is vital to sustainability.

Offering a competitive edge

Not all your competitors will have the same robust continuity plan that you have. This could be something very important to your customers. Use this to your advantage as a strong differentiator that you have well-designed plan to deal with any disruption quickly and effectively.

How SMBs can build or enhance their business continuity plan

If you don’t have a plan, it’s time to work on one. If you do have one, it can be optimized. For help, contemplate these tips:

Business continuity is NOT the same as disaster recovery

Many companies use these terms interchangeably, but they aren’t the same. Disaster recovery focuses on restoring IT and technical operations. Business continuity is much more broad and detailed and usually includes IT disaster recovery. It outlines procedures and processes to preserve and restore business operations after a disaster, including facilities, communications, human resources, partners, customer service, and more. You need both types of plans ready to go.

Remember your plan should be fluid

Business continuity plans aren’t something you can create and then forget about. Many things will change that will need to be addressed or updated in your plan. You may add more infrastructure or need to comply with new laws. You should revisit your plan regularly to ensure it is still relevant to your current business model and customer commitments. As your company changes, it might be useful for an IT consultant to provide an assessment.

Test your business continuity plan

A plan is great on paper, but what about real life? You need to accommodate testing of your plan, which could include:

  • Table-top exercises: Your team goes through the plan looking for gaps
  • Structured walk-throughs: Every team member does a step-by-step review of what they would do and how to do it
  • Disaster simulation testing: Your team simulates an environment where a real disaster has occurred

Communicate your plan with all

A business continuity plan must be shared with all your employees. It needs to be discussed regularly so your entire team understands its importance.

If you’d like to optimize or build your business continuity plan, you may want help from an IT services and technology provider.

At ISG Technology, we have over seven decades of experience and serve a variety of industries with thousands of clients all over the world. Contact us today to see how we can serve you.

What is hosted PBX?

Hosted PBX systems are becoming popular solutions for many small to medium-sized businesses who want to stay competitive with advanced technology and the opportunities it provides.  Built, delivered and managed by a third-party service provider, hosted PBX is an IP-based telephony solution provisioned and accessed entirely through the Internet.

Basically, a hosted PBX takes your business communications system out of the office and into the cloud. So long as they can connect to the cloud, your employees – no matter where they are – can stay engaged and productive without physical limitations.

Unlike a traditional private branch exchange (PBX) phone system, which requires installation, ongoing maintenance, training, and costly hardware, a hosted PBX takes many of these issues off your shoulders and provides you with an easy to manage, user-friendly service with a wide range of features offering greater flexibility.

Let’s review some of the most valuable benefits for SMBs.

User-controlled settings

Hosted PBX systems provide online web portals where users configure their settings without relying on IT staff support or enduring complicated technical setup. Training time and costs are minimal with more user-friendly portals accessible from desktop computers and laptops as well as tablets and smartphones.

Scalability for multiple locations

If you are still supporting multiple locations with a legacy phone system, that means having to manage each location’s computer box individually, deal with limits on numbers of lines, and handle hardware maintenance for each location. It also means remote employees cannot use the same features available in-office.

Because the management of hosted PBX happens in the cloud, your business is free from the demands of a traditional phone system. You are also free to add or remove lines as needed for any location. As your business needs change and grow, your host PBX system grows with you, but at a lower overall cost.

Seamless collaboration

So long as there is a reliable connection to the cloud, remote or traveling employees can securely access services and features to maintain productivity without ever having to step into the office. Whether you need voice, video or web interaction, the same IP service quality and features keep you in touch and in step with your team and your customers.

Flexible features

Once upon a time, most businesses found it sufficient to have a phone situated in one location with a few standard features such as hold, transfer, conference, and speaker.

Today, remaining competitive often demands the capability to communicate from a variety of locations and channels. A hosted PBX system allows employees to seamlessly make, receive and transfer calls across locations or devices, depending on the situation. Video conferencing can include any number of individuals with ease. Voicemail can be converted to email (or vice versa), allowing all communication information to flow to the channels that make the most sense for your team.

Automatic updates

It can be difficult to keep up with the frequent changes in business technology, not to mention knowing which most benefit your business. Rather than lose that edge, a hosted PBX will keep your communication system current and notify you of improvements to your VoIP phones and related devices.

Upgrades and updates are simple and often automatic. This means not having to engage busy or expensive IT and phone resources to maintain the best service available.

Business continuity

Accidents happen, as do natural disasters, equipment failures, and cyberattacks. Any of these scenarios could result in downtime when on-site hardware is damaged or compromised. Because a hosted PBX operates from secure and redundant data centers, you are far less likely to experience an interruption in business operation or communication due to loss of voice service.

When a physical phone, computer, or other portal device goes down, calls can be quickly rerouted to another device to ensure continuous service.

What to look for…

Look closely at your current capabilities and determine whether those meet your needs either currently or for your future plans.

Some options you will want to consider include:

  • Ability to convert voicemail to email
  • Videoconferencing
  • Ability to make and receive calls on any device in any location
  • Automatic upgrades
  • Ease of configuration
  • Low maintenance

Your first priority should be running and growing your business, not untangling your phone system. With a hosted PBX, you can enjoy high-quality, reliable service with a wide range of useful features while keeping your attention where it belongs.

What to cover in your business continuity plan

What would your company do to maintain operations after a disaster?  

This is an important question to consider, as FEMA states that between 40% and 60% of businesses never reopen after a disaster. Many businesses have a disaster recovery (DR) plan, but that’s not the same as a business continuity (BC) plan. Let’s look at how they’re different – and 6 items your BC plan must cover.

HPE Platinum Partner
Written in Partnership with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise

More than a disaster recovery plan

First things first: while a DR plan is crucial to maintaining data integrity, a BC plan is more than that. Disaster recovery is often integrated into business continuity, but a BC plan specifically looks at how your business will continue to serve its customers during recovery from a disaster or event.  

Know your data centers

Knowing your data centers is crucial. After all, not all disasters happen to a business’s operating location, especially if companies are heavily invested in cloud computing, offsite and virtual servers, and other factors. Make sure you’re aware of your data center’s disaster plan. Do they have multiple fuel providers in case of interruption? Are they geographically diverse so that one disaster won’t wipe out all of their data distribution? Do they have their own safe backups of information? How will they communicate with you in the event of a disaster?  

Knowing these details makes the transition during an issue much smoother.  

Have alternate locations ready

If your primary business location is flattened by a tornado or flooded by a hurricane, where will your employees report to work? Can your customer service reps work from home or other housing using VoIP while facilities are rebuilt? Will your cloud services remain sufficiently secure if your staff need to access them from less secure connections? Can you quickly rent a space in a less damaged area for your most crucial personnel? By building these answers into your BC plan, you will have an easier time responding to any problems.  

Have key information in separate storage facilities

Businesses should have insurance policies, numbers to call in case of disaster, and so forth. Make sure there are copies of these documents stored in multiple locations. Having them in your desk at work won’t be helpful if your building has been destroyed by an earthquake.

HPE Platinum Partner
Written in Partnership with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise

Identify key players and who can assume their roles

Remember the recent case when a cryptocurrency CEO died unexpectedly and took the passwords to his hard drives with him? Roughly $145 million of cryptocurrency disappeared with him since he had the only password to the relevant hard drive.  

Unfortunately, there are unexpected and sudden deaths in the business world. Part of your continuity plan should address key players in the company and consider who would assume their roles until a permanent decision was made. Don’t just assume that a VP can step into the CEO’s role without planning for who will take over the VP’s role as well.  

Engage in regular testing

The most crucial element of any business continuity plan is testing. Companies should start by addressing the plan on paper with all key players to identify any gaps or immediate concerns. Then, they should reality test the plan, addressing it again with any outside stakeholders. If changes are made, it should come back to the table for further discussion. Finally, live-testing a disaster recovery plan will identify any last minute weaknesses. It will also give stakeholders a sense of how a real event would proceed.  

Business continuity plans are crucial to the operation of a successful business. It is often assumed that disasters will happen to other companies; in reality, however, disasters happen to all businesses, sooner or later. What separates those that survive from those that do not is, quite simply, their preparedness.  

To get help designing or refining your business continuity plan, contact your managed services provider today. Power your enterprise with proven, industry-leading IT infrastructure solutions, products, and services with HPE. Find out more here.

The top 4 video conferencing solutions for small businesses

Technology continues to influence how we communicate and do business on a daily basis. Along with already established tools such as email and messaging apps, video conferencing is having a profound effect in meeting rooms across the world. Video conferencing is far more engaging than phone calls or text chat, with participants benefiting from eye contact, body language, and face-to-face interaction.

According to a Forbes Insights survey of over 300 global executives, 62 percent of participants thought video conferencing significantly improved the quality of communication when compared to other tools.

If you’re looking for a video conferencing solution for your SMB, there are lots of great options available, from simple free tools to commercial applications with cloud support, unified communications systems, and file sharing. Let’s take a look at four of the best solutions for small businesses.

1. Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a free and easy application aimed at business users. While it lacks many of the advanced features of other platforms, it integrates seamlessly into Gmail and supports group chat, video chat, and VoIP functionality for multiple participants. Perfect for casual conference calls, Hangouts can be used by up to 100 people for group chats and up to 10 people for video calls.

Google Hangouts is a native web-based solution that is divided into two main products: Hangouts Chat, which focuses on instant messaging with additional features, and Hangouts Meet, which focuses on video conferencing with machine learning for automatic scheduling. Hangouts is free for Google+ users, with a monthly subscription also available as part of the G Suite business package.

2. RingCentral Meetings

RingCentral Meetings is a cloud-based communications tool with a strong focus on video conferencing and team collaboration. Features of this platform include interactive screen sharing, one-click scheduling, and integration with big name products by Google and Microsoft among others. This advanced tool has online conference and screen sharing capabilities for up to 100 participants.

RingCentral Meetings can share files and set up tasks among members, with add-ons available for webinars, large meetings, and RingCentral rooms. You can transition between services with ease, including video, text chat, file sharing, web meetings, and other options. There is a free version of Meetings available for new and agile teams, along with Essentials and Advanced packages for growing businesses and large enterprises respectively.

3. Microsoft Teams

While Microsoft Teams might seem like a new product, it is based on the technology and legacy of the popular Skype for Business service. As one of the originators in this sector, Skype had the time and resources to refine its service for business users. Microsoft transformed this service into Teams, which benefits from the scope and security of the Microsoft banner and integrates seamlessly with existing Microsoft products in the Office 365 cloud-based suite.

Microsoft Teams enables text, audio, video, and web conferences, including large-scale live events. You can communicate and collaborate with anyone inside or outside your organization, and customize your workspace to meet your unique needs. Microsoft Teams is available as a free service, with Office 365 Business Premium and Office 365 Enterprise E3 subscription services also available if you need additional capacity.

4. Adobe Connect

This video conferencing solution is one of the more advanced and expensive options on the market. It’s also one of the most comprehensive, with Adobe Connect offering support for presentations, online training, web conferencing, learning modules, virtual classrooms, and desktop sharing. Unlike most other video conferencing services, Connect allows users to edit recorded videos, which is why it’s become such a useful tool in the education and training sector.

Adobe Connect enables custom layouts for a better user experience, giving you complete control over your content and how it’s delivered. From experience-driven learning through to persistent virtual rooms and custom applications, Connect offers so much more than standard video conferencing. While there is a free trial available for Adobe Connect, a monthly or annual subscription is needed to unlock key features.

According to a study by Transparency Market Research, the global video conferencing market is expected to be worth more than $10,500 million by 2026. There’s never been a better time to adopt these powerful tools for the benefit of your organization.

How to build a disaster management plan

Computers and IT systems are integral to every part of a business, with downtime and disruptions likely to cause productivity losses and economic damage. Whether it’s a natural event, a cyber attack, or simple human error, when disaster strikes, solutions are needed fast. In the context of IT, a disaster management plan is a set of strategies and procedures that attempt to restore hardware, software, and data in order to ensure fast and effective business recovery.

Benefits of a disaster management plan

An IT disaster management plan should always be developed to ensure fast and effective recovery. While data backup is an important part of this process, additional measures need to be taken to ensure compliance and the continuity of critical business systems. When implemented alongside a continuity plan using accurate information from a business impact analysis, disaster management has the ability to reduce data losses, minimize downtime, and promote a healthy business reputation.

Actionable steps to ensure containment and recovery

Managing an IT disaster is a complex and challenging task, with many issues to consider and lots on the line if something goes wrong. Success depends on organization and management before, during, and after the disaster takes place. While being able to react effectively to a situation is crucial, proactive measures are just as important. From carrying out a business impact analysis and documenting risk assessment through to containment and recovery, let’s take a look at the steps you need to take.

1. Business impact analysis

A comprehensive business impact analysis lies at the heart of every successful disaster management plan. It’s no use waiting until disaster strikes. An impact analysis will allow you to research the potential impact of disaster events. Businesses that understand how much they have to lose are much less likely to fail when a disruption occurs.

An analysis is responsible for identifying critical business functions, measuring impact events, and defining recovery strategies. Generally carried out before a risk assessment, this analysis defines critical systems and quantifies internal and external risks that may affect business data and processes.

2. Risk assessment

Once a business impact analysis has been conducted, it’s time to carry out an IT risk assessment. While these two processes are linked, a risk assessment is more concerned with describing potential threats and measuring their likely impact on business processes and resources. A business impact analysis defines your potential losses, and a risk assessment identifies and quantifies actual disaster events. Successful disaster management requires both of these steps, with businesses able to dedicate resources more effectively when they link specific disasters with specific outcomes.

3. Respond quickly and contain

While planning and organization are all well and good, action is more important than anything else when disaster strikes. Having the ability to respond quickly and effectively is critical before additional problems develop. Check on people first if a natural disaster strikes, review physical damage to computer and network resources, and ensure open communication channels at all times. The extent of data loss often depends on how quickly you respond and contain the threat.

4. Recover and minimize downtime

When the actual threat has been neutralized, it’s important to stay calm and recover quickly according to your established plan. It’s important to stay productive if possible, with some businesses able to carry out manual operations, communicate via telephone rather than computer, or initialize cloud-based backup solutions.

According to Wikibon, enterprise cloud spending is predicted to grow by 16 percent annually between 2016 and 2026. It’s important to distinguish between internal recovery and cloud-based recovery, and get access to critical business systems as quickly as possible. Downtime represents the most significant cost of disaster events, at an average of $5,600 per minute according to Gartner.

5. Protect your business reputation

An IT disaster has the potential to adversely affect your reputation, especially if it’s linked to cybercrime or network security breaches. It’s important to be proactive after a disruption event and do everything you can to protect your reputation. Regular and ongoing communication with customers and other stakeholders plays a big role at this stage, so keep people in the loop and be honest about the situation. With the right preparation and the ability to respond quickly when disaster occurs, any business can face their challenges head-on and emerge with something resembling a smile.