The James Farley Post Office (the main one) in New York city has an oft quoted inscription that goes:
Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Dark Of Night Shall Stay These Couriers From The Swift Completion Of Their Appointed Rounds.
In our business our clients generally expect us to be open for business unless a major disaster strikes especially as our clients are all over the world.
Is your business prepared for bad weather?
A few weeks ago I received a letter from my son's High School commenting on the fact that the long range forecast was poor and what they would do in various situations. This made me think that our team needed to dust down our bad weather plan and make sure it was still relevant and workable - the business has changed and evolved since we organised it.
What is a Bad Weather Plan?
Generally, it is a plan that indicates what people and resources are required to deliver key services and applies a very low level disaster situation to them.
A good example is the recent heavy rains that resulted in massive traffic jams and huge delays moving around Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead and Durham. Ideally, an informed business would let its team know that if, after listening to the news etc, they realised that there was a big risk of them just getting stuck in a jam for a couple of hours, maybe they should just work from home with the tools provided. If no plan was in place then everyone would just try to get to work and arrive very late with many hours of lost revenue or client good will.
What is Transcendit's Bad Weather Plan?
When defining our plan we first had to detemine what services we deliver that we wanted to cover. Ideally we would always be able to cover:
- Remote IT Support
- Web Design
- Application Development
Please note that these are all services we can perform remotely. Other services such as an on-site visit would be delayed due to bad weather and once safe would be undertaken.
In order to deliver those three services our team needs a few things:
- To be able to communicate with each other - This is facilitated by just exchanging mobile numbers.
- A computer to work on that accesses our central systems - Eveyone has laptops (this is a policy) and are encouraged to take them home especially if bad weather is forecast. Our systems are accessible via secure VPN meaning that as long as the office still has power and the internet is working the team can get to key systems. Lastly, we have terminal servers in place to allow our team to run applications as if they were sitting in the office.
- A facility to allow clients to contact them - Our phone system is based on VOIP technology that means that we can connect virtual handsets from a PC that is connected from someone's house to the phone system at the office. Additionally, we have issued headsets to everyone so that they can have a reasonable phone experience. So, if someone rang and nobody was in the office we could still answer it.
Once these things are in place we simply need to:
- Test, test, test. In our case this is quite easy as it just requires everyone to try working from home for a day. If they can do it successfully without missing anything then everything is in place. If they are missing a key facility they will soon discover it.
- Agree with the team under what conditions they will/won't attempt their normal journeys. For example, if someone is within walking distance then they probably will always be able to travel to the office.
Lastly, make sure you regularly remind people to test their part in the plan and give everyone a heads up if the forecast for the next day looks nasty.
Please remember this is NOT a Disaster Recovery Plan. This is merely a way for us to methodically try to deal with the chaos that arises whenever a few inches of snow falls.
I hope you find our example of use. If you would like assistance with a Bad Weather Plan, Disaster Recovery Plan or the technologies that can help your business with each of these situations please don't hesitate to contact Adam Kuznesof or Dave Scott.