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Prepare for the unexpected

Following the disruption caused by last month’s underground fire in Holborn, Dave Millet asks ‘How prepared is your business for an emergency?’

The recent events in Holborn, London, where an underground fire caused power cuts and days of disruption costing an estimated £50 million, raise an important question for business managers: What plans do you have in place for the unexpected?

The Holborn fire was unusual, but disruption is also caused by everyday events, such as extreme weather or transport problems, and businesses need to know they can cope with such emergencies.

There are many aspects to consider but one of the most important is telecoms. According to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), almost one in four companies experiences an interruption to their telecoms every year.

Whilst most of these are short-term, lengthy disruptions can lead to business failure. A study by Henley Management College found that 60% of companies that experienced a loss of normal telecoms for 10 days ceased trading within a year.

Here are some of the questions you should be asking to ensure your business survives such a disruption:

If you have VOIP, you can log in via a web portal and divert calls, but do you know how to do this?

Some VOIP solutions have automatic fail-over, but is it set up on yours? nIs your data backed up off-site? Do you know how to access it from other devices?

For those who have analogue lines, did you know you can add call divert as a feature for a few pounds a month?

If you have ISDN services you can normally only redirect all your numbers to one single number. SIP allows you to redirect individual extensions, each to a different number if necessary.

Do you have the details of who to call if there is an outage? And are your account details held off-site or in the cloud where you can access them? nIf you have a phone system, do you know how to set the call forward? Can it

Dave Millett runs Equinox, a leading independent telecoms brokerage and consultancy firm
Dave Millett runs Equinox, a leading independent telecoms brokerage and consultancy firm

be done remotely?

Have you considered inbound numbers that come with an App to activate your continuity plan at the touch of a button? Inbound numbers are virtual numbers that sit in front of your phone system. They exist in the Cloud and you control them via a Web Portal, so you can instantly redirect them yourself. They are more commonly associated with 0845, 0800 etc. but you can have geographic 01,02,03 numbers as well.

At Equinox, customers often ask us how much business continuity they actually need. A good starting point is to consider the cost of a day’s lost business. For a hedge fund, this is likely to be quite large, justifying significant investment in resilience and alternatives. For a firm of accountants, the impact is likely to be less severe.

Another way of looking at it is to assess how much of your day-to-day business is conducted over the phone. The higher the percentage, the more prepared you should be.

Being prepared means taking action now – not waiting until something happens. Hopefully you will never need to rely on a business continuity plan. But if you do, the actions you take now could be the difference between survival and bankruptcy.

Dave Millett runs Equinox, a leading independent telecoms brokerage and consultancy firm. He has helped many different types of organisation achieve savings of up to 80% on their telecoms.

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