Accessing Your Plans

Having proper disaster scenarios in place will speed preparations

When looking at risk scenarios for small and medium businesses, there are two major areas that attract the most focus -- facilities and suppliers. These areas spotlight what happens when a disaster strikes your physical workplace and what steps you can take to maintain business if you can’t get the materials needed to produce your products and services.

These two areas deserve to be top priorities because they are important to maintain positive workflow. However, as this past year has demonstrated, there are additional scenarios that need to be taken into account with risk assessments and planning.

The outbreak of H1N1, the recent salmonella scare and egg recall, destruction from flooding and tornados and harsh winter weather across the country has reintroduced these disaster scenarios back into the picture, making organizations address their most important assets -- their employees. Unfortunately, in order for these risks to enter business continuity planning, the threat of disaster must loom.

Facing the Facts
With today’s economy hardships, SMBs can be easily susceptible to the negative economic impacts of pandemics, extreme weather, transportation outages, and other disaster scenarios. Because of this it is imperative that these companies are able to maintain their business services. Any disruption of business activity can be detrimental to the success of the business.

Ask yourself this question: You’re a successful SMB, what types of risks, pandemic or disaster are you prepared for? What are the factors that can affect your employee’s ability to work?

You can group these factors into three areas: productivity, service delivery and a complete business disruption.

Productivity, although a focal point in business continuity, this ranks as the lowest aspect in terms of business impact. With illness, employees will miss work, which is expected. However, should a disaster strike, your employees may not be sick at all, but unable to commute to the office. As absenteeism rates begin to rise, it is natural that productivity suffers. Connecting your employees securely to the office network is a resilient work-around to maintain productivity even with travel disruptions. Without the proper technology in place, productivity will take a major hit.

Direct Connection
Having a direct connection to productivity, disruption in the delivery of your business services can have a long lasting effect on your business and supply chain. As employee absenteeism rises, so does your organization's ability to deliver your products and services. You should also consider that, even if your company is prepared for a disaster, your partners and suppliers may not be. Work with your partners on establishing a joint business continuity plan that will help streamline and continue your business processes. A successful plan will make sure that your company, partners and even your customers are maintaining a high level of communication and activity.

Acute weather, a severe flu outbreak, or a natural disaster can cause a complete business disruption for your office, in your supply chain, or in your community. Should a major virus hit, ill employees can have a direct and indirect effect on other employees. In the first scenario, other employees will become sick from ill employees. In the second, employees who are not sick may be come hesitant to come into the office out of fear of contracting a virus. Additionally, a complete disruption can occur when too many employees unable to get to the office because of road conditions or a breakdown of public transportation.

To help avoid a complete business disruption, when developing your business continuity plan, consider the tools to help mitigate risks to your business, supply chain and customers. Establish effective telecommuting, remote access and sick leave policies as the first step to keep your business running smoothly. Technology such as SLL VPN and remote access solutions allow your employees to stay connected to the network, applications, documents and email to maintain your business communication.

When your internal plan has been implemented and your employees are educated on the new procedures, you can extend your plan to include your external workforce and supply chain of vendors. Lay the foundation that will ensure that your company, customer and supply chain interactions are able to be maintained effectively and efficiently in the face of a disaster. When all aspects are accounted for, all associated parties should be able to remain productive while maintaining effective communication across all business entities.

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