According to FEMA, 40-60% of small businesses affected by disasters will never reopen their doors. Regardless of your industry, there is a lot riding on how you protect your business from disaster. You likely physically protect your business with alarm systems, cameras, and even safes. You also probably invest in protections for your data and technology systems, as well.
A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a tool used by successful businesses the world over to protect themselves. In this article, we’ll explain why so many businesses use it and how you will benefit from having one, too.
Let’s start by going over the core of any DRP. The details and number of points often vary, but the core of any effective plan has these points:
We’ve all heard that old quip about people who “can’t see the forest for the trees”. Whether you are a details person or a big picture person, this is your opportunity to get a good look at both.
The first step in creating a disaster recovery plan is to take a step back and assess your entire business. This enables you to take a holistic view of your operation that you don’t often see when you are working in the day-to-day operations. Make the most of this opportunity to ensure that you are not duplicating efforts or leaving any one area exposed. Take a close look at every aspect of the business and get reacquainted (or get familiar) with aspects that you may not have considered recently. Start with your hardware, but consider also your infrastructure and even your partnerships.
We would all like to think that we are one of the lucky businesses who will not be adversely affected by circumstances like natural disasters. The reality is, though, that even just a few hours of downtime can cause big problems for a small business. In September 2018, a cooling problem at one of its data centers caused an outage of over 24 hours for Microsoft Azure customers in much of the US. For businesses that rely on Microsoft Azure, that downtime could have cost them dearly. A successful business is dependent on a number of systems, so it’s important to evaluate each one critically and understand the risks and damages of being compromised. Your website outage can be a very different problem if you’re only using it as an advertising landing page than if you are using it to conduct daily business transactions or interactions.
Consider how a business with a DRP might have handled the Azure downtime compared to a business without a DRP. When the event occurred, a business with a DRP plan would have been able to quickly assess the situation, go to the action plan, and determine the best response based on that plan. At its heart, a DRP is about minimizing losses. One day of downtime is unlikely to close your business for good, but it will still cost you. It pays to be realistic about what your priorities will be when a problem arises and how much downtime you can reasonably tolerate.
In 2016, Southwest Airlines experienced a chain of failures in critical systems that started because of a router breakdown. Over a period of fewer than 48 hours, they canceled hundreds of flights and delayed thousands more. The cost of lost ticket sales alone was between $5 million and $10 million. While this may seem like an extreme example, it’s relevant when you consider that the cause of all this lost revenue and two days of downtime was a simple, unforeseen hardware failure.
Downtime happens to everyone. The best and biggest service providers don’t promise 100% uptime, even as a best-case scenario. What can separate your business from the rest is what you do when downtime strikes. Will it result in a few hours of downtime or a few days?
Restoring your systems efficiently and successfully takes a lot of research and preparation. It’s likely you would rather address your disaster recovery plan while you have the foresight, time and bandwidth, instead of when you’ve got one or multiple systems down and the pressure is on to get things back up. Investigating this kind of information and planning a response tailored to your business is easier to navigate by consulting with the experts.
As internet speeds and capacities increase and technologies and costs improve, more and more businesses are cutting the cord from traditional phone systems. They are choosing to adopt Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems.
Just the same, it’s smart to determine if the hype is justified. How good are the monetary savings? How seamlessly will it integrate with your current or future business technology? Is VoIP secure?
Before you make any decision regarding changes to your business phone systems, take a look at the pros and cons of VoIP.
VoIP works by converting voice into digital data and sending it through your Internet connection via the router.
VoIP allows for normal phone calls through the internet with all of the options usually enjoyed by business’s traditional PBX systems including voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding, conference calling, caller ID, and more.
In addition, VoIP software integrates well with desktop computers for use as “softphones”. The only requirement is that they have voice and audio input/output capabilities.
“The last decade saw a splurge of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) businesses mushrooming around the world.” – Forbes
Setting up a VoIP is fairly simple. You need a reliable internet connection with decent bandwidth. Most VoIP providers handle delivering calls and software needs—particularly if you’re using plug-and-play phones certified for that service provider.
Generally, there are no other hardware requirements aside from the phones themselves.
If you opt for a self-hosted, onsite VoIP system, it gets a little more involved. You’ll need to get a VoIP-friendly version of the private branch exchange (PBX) phone system many businesses already use to handle routing your calls to the appropriate phones on the network as well as a PTSN gateway to sit between the VoIP PBX software and the traditional public switch telephone network.
If you don’t wish to host your PBX software on your server, you can opt for a cloud-based phone system. That way, all of the hosting and management is done through a cloud service provider and paid on a subscription basis.
Whatever option you choose, managing the network phones and extensions is fairly simple and you can do further fine-tuning via your provider’s online account interface.
The IP phones themselves usually come in two forms. Most look very much like the traditional desktop business phone with all of the usual features—speakerphone, hold and transfer buttons, multi-caller functions, etc. Some even allow for video conferencing which comes in useful for demos, sales pitches, or just providing a human face to communication.
The other option is “softphones” which are software-based clients installed on computers and mobile devices. These offer the same full functionality as the desktop phones, plus often have instant messaging capability and, with video input available, allow for face-to-face video conferencing.
It’s common that when a new technology hits the scene that debate erupts over which is better. POTS is an acronym for Pretty Old Phone System, also known as PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). This has been the way businesses have handled communication since the days of Alexander Graham Bell. For that reason alone, many are hesitant to make the switch.
But how do the differences really compare for business? There are actually some solid reasons for POTS.
For one, there is continuity of business and of service. VoIP won’t work without an internet connection. Which means it’s not only vulnerable to network issues but power failures as well. POTS are much more dependable in these cases and allow businesses to maintain phone communication even when the internet is down.
911 calls can also be more reliable over landlines, whereas e911 calls are vulnerable to power or internet outages. For these reasons some companies, like alarm companies, require a landline in order to maintain their security monitoring.
And, in some cases, voice quality over POTS is still superior, but this may change as VoIP continues to evolve.
On the other side, VoIP offers a number of benefits not readily available to POTS subscribers.
There’s a reason why so many businesses are adopting VoIP technology. While there exist a few pros to maintaining a POTS subscription, the benefits of switching to VoIP outnumber them.
Generally, VoIP systems are just cheaper than traditional phone systems. There is less hardware to purchase, and, in most cases, VoIP hosts don’t require any new hardware at all. If they do, it’s usually readily available hardware that’s not locked down with propriatary limitations.
When managing remote employees—even far-flung remote employees—there is no extra cost due to distance. Because the voice and data are being sent via the internet, there are no long distance fee considerations. New York calling Los Angeles is the same as calling across the street. In fact, most VoIP services offer free calls to coworkers regardless of location.
Monthly subscription fees are lower as well, and often don’t require a contract.
Much can depend on the amount of phone traffic you regularly have. At worst, you’re not likely to be spending more than you already are. However, you’ll have the added value VoIP can bring you.
“The advancements in technology have greatly helped small business owners to realize increased productivity and lower cost structure in all sectors.” – CIO
VoIP is particularly suited for those employees who are not tethered to a desk or traditional office setup.
Many providers offer dedicated apps for sending and receiving calls from remote locations using their data connection and mobile devices including those devices that fall under your business’s BYOD policies. You can set these apps to right simultaneously with an office phone. Apps can even function as a standalone extension.
Likewise, video conferencing options are available for salespeople to run demos and pitches with the same ease and low cost as voice communications from wherever is most convenient or effective, saving on both time and travel.
Being away from the phone is not a problem as voicemail and instant messaging can be converted to email or text messaging and sent to any device specified.
You won’t have to worry about installing additional hardware to accommodate new extensions when your business requires them. VoIP service expansion is as simple and inexpensive as purchasing another certified phone with plug-and-play adaptability. At most, connecting a VoIP-enabled phone to your network will require tweaking a few settings. You could also install the softphone client software onto additional networked computers.
VoIP allows for adding or removing any number of phones and extensions. So you can do what makes the most sense for your business’s current needs.
If your business uses or is considering implementing a unified communications (UC) system, VoIP fits in well and may already be part of its infrastructure. Because both the UC system and VoIP rely on network connectivity and management, including both makes sense, and both use many of the same communication features such as instant messaging, call management, video calling and conferencing, and mobility.
VoIP becomes another tool for enhancing collaborative workflow and business productivity.
“Today’s small businesses have extensive options for selecting a business phone system, particularly now that cloud-hosted VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) solutions are so prominent in the marketplace.” – TechRepublic
When it comes to the security of your VoIP system, much of that is in the hands of the user. Many VoIP services don’t come with internal security obstacles for cybercriminals to overcome. For that, you need to rely on those same security protocols and best practices as usual.
You’ll want the usual robust firewall protections on your network and employee education regarding phishing scams and malware attacks. You can consider encryption and VPN options as well.
Taken as a whole, however, VoIP is as secure as traditional telephony.
VoIP is such a rapidly developing technology and is being adopted at a growing rate among companies worldwide. As such, it has been suggested that it may supplant POTS in time. You may want to consider making the switch. It’s simple, given the low costs, the flexibility, and multitude of services available with VoIP systems
As with any business decision, you should do the research and consult with your experts. You’ll likely find that companies dedicated to keeping a competitive edge and looking to take every advantage possible to strengthen their business are adopting VoIP as a useful tool.