By Chip Meacham
Senior Hosted Solutions Manager, EarthLink
If you’re a company IT director, most elements of day-to-day business are within your control. But, there are some things that aren’t. Sometimes, enterprise functionality can seemingly grind to a halt despite your best efforts. Say, for instance, a major snowstorm hits near headquarters and forces the organization to shut down for a day. That could come out to maybe $100,000 in losses. Or imagine an even more financially dire situation: a hurricane ripping through the city and causing structural damage to your company’s physical location.
Let’s face it: No matter how great your IT department is, you’re not going to be able to stop a snowstorm – let alone a hurricane. But that doesn’t mean your business needs to surrender to natural disasters. While inclement weather may be beyond your control, dealing with the fallout is not. In fact, that’s something that you have complete power over. For a well-prepared business, even something as damaging as a hurricane can be a surmountable obstacle. But for organizations that are unprepared, the same natural event can force them to shut their doors. The choice is yours: Are you going to weather the storm? If your answer is “yes” – and we hope it is – then we have a solution for you: Hosted Voice, a product that makes it easy for organizations to avoid any weather-related downtime.
“For a well-prepared business, even something as damaging as a hurricane can be a surmountable obstacle.”
Snow days may be fun for kids, but not for companies
While bad weather can’t always be predicted well in advance, its impact on enterprises can. That’s because examples exist of the negative effects inclement weather can have on organizations, no matter how large they are or what kind of business they operate.
As fall slowly fades away to make room for the onset of another cold winter, it’s important to examine the issue of snow and enterprises in particular. Last winter, NBC reported that the season’s huge snowfall led to a $15 billion hit on U.S. businesses in the first quarter of 2014 alone. Retail stores, of course, were hit particularly hard, since ice and other winter-related risk factors deterred prospective customers from driving.
But invariably, the enterprises that suffer the greatest impact as a result of snow will be small businesses. Small enterprise owner Phil Nichols, for instance, saw a steep decline in revenue as a direct result of a snowstorm in 2014. Because of that, he had to keep 14 out of 18 of his staff members home during the storm, since there just wasn’t enough work available for all of them. Presumably the 14 employees weren’t paid during this time off, and this temporary lack of income likely didn’t have a positive impact on staff morale. Occasionally, snow storms take a bigger form, and their devastating impact expands as well. Such was the case with a February 2013 blizzard that swept the northeastern U.S. According to CBS, the blizzard grounded flights, shut down public transit, and, of course, drove some businesses to a halt. Sure, stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s were bound to experience heavy traffic from people stockpiling for future storms, but smaller companies didn’t fare so well.
It’s not just snowstorms that businesses have to worry about
If snowstorms were the only natural obstacle companies faced, that would be one thing. But they’re not, as the example of Hurricane Sandy starkly illustrated. Between late October and early November of 2012, Hurricane Sandy ravaged Eastern states like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. The impact was catastrophic, leading not only to the loss of human life, but also fundamentally upending daily operations. The New York Stock Exchange temporarily shut down. Airports drastically limited their service. Schools closed. Once the storm had passed, the lengthy recovery period began. But some businesses – particularly smaller ones – were never able to reach that stage.
In an age of enterprise mobility, smaller organizations have been the slowest to join the movement. As the U.S. Small Business Association reported, 90 percent of small business patronage comes from customers who are located within two miles of the company itself. Given that statistic, it should come as no surprise that in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it was projected that 30 percent of small businesses affected by the storm would be forced to shut down. All told, between 60,000 and 100,000 small companies suffered from Sandy.
“All told, between 60,000 and 100,000 small companies suffered from Hurricane Sandy.”
In February 2013, The Hartford released a survey of 451 small businesses in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey that were impacted by the storm. Here are some of the more significant findings:
- 71 percent of respondents dealt with a power outage as a direct result of the storm.
- More than half saw revenues fall.
- Roughly 75 percent of small businesses shut down operations temporarily because of damages.It’s this last statistic that’s perhaps the most troubling. After all, even a single day of unexpected downtime has significant reverberations for any kind of business. It means lost opportunities with customers and employees who go unpaid. But what if downtime didn’t have to happen as a result of an event like Sandy? What if a solution existed?
Luckily, there is a solution
When the physical store powers down, that doesn’t mean the business itself has to follow. After all, in the mobile-connected world we live in, a lot of day-to-day business takes place in the digital realm anyway. For all companies, it’s imperative that they have a phone solution that not only works on normal days, but also anticipates and accounts for those abnormal moments – like the morning after the storm when you walk into a business full of standing water. Fortunately, there is a resource for this. It’s called Hosted Voice.
In the business world, a phone system represents more than just a means of making calls – it’s also a central enterprise tool (click here, for instance, to read about how changes to a company’s phone system can lead to big boosts in revenue). Because the phone is such a business asset, companies need a system that encompasses all of its possibilities. That’s where Hosted Voice comes in. It’s more than just a phone system – it’s a way of mobilizing business.
This mobilizing potential becomes especially important in the event of a disaster like Hurricane Sandy. Basically, what Hosted Voice creates is a disaster-resilient system. Let’s say, for instance, that a hurricane fills your small business with standing water and you can’t be in the physical office. With a Hosted Voice solution, you can still run the business – just by doing it remotely. That’s because it offers easy call routing resources which make it possible for companies to continue functioning even while temporarily without a physical space. If, for example, you’re a small software vendor with several physical locations, a Hosted Voice program can help you remain afloat in the event of a natural calamity. While your physical locations may have to temporarily close, you can forward calls to a remote location, where you can continue to provide customer service, conduct over-the-phone sales and keep employees working. Business might slow down after a natural disaster, but with Hosted Voice it won’t be derailed.