Hurricane Season: Don't Underestimate Disaster
Written by Philip Magson, 17 July 2015
Every year, hurricanes cost business in the United States billions of dollars. These disasters remind us that we're relatively powerless in the face of mother nature - but we are able prepare for what happens before and after she strikes... Unfortunately lots of UK businesses are still underestimating the risks.
June marked the beginning of continental America's 'Hurricane Season'. The human impact of hurricanes is well known across the world but their business impact is also devastating. The last major hurricane in the U.S, 2013's Hurricane Sandy, damaged around 250,000 small businesses at a combined cost of around $8.3 billion.
Obviously hurricanes aren't high on the threat list of UK businesses (although some of us might debate that notion after last year's Hurricane Gonzalo) but we still have plenty of domestic threats to contend with, including torrential rain, flooding and fire... and you ignore those risks at your business' peril.
Disaster in the UK
When we talk about threats to business continuity in the UK, most of us think about cyber attacks or data-loss through human error... but we don't need to look far back to see the effects of natural disaster or damaging fire on business infrastructure. Even with the lessons of recent history, many UK organisations aren't prepared for a period of extended adversity, never mind a worst case scenario.
A Cloud Direct survey of 500 SMEs found that only 1 in 6 UK businesses had continuity plans despite almost half having experienced some form of disaster. In 2014, the Business Continuity Institute released a report which showed 'Adverse Weather' had moved up the UK threat priority list - it's a little deceptive (especially in Scotland) because it creates the impression 'heavy rainfall' is the only kind of disaster you need to worry about. Here are a few other threats which could easily affect your business in the UK.
Flooding: Around 5.2 million properties in Britain are at risk of flooding - which can cause damage in the tens of thousands of pounds. Flooding isn't just a case of a river bursting its banks: surface water flooding occurs when drains overflow, while ground water surges bring huge amounts of water to the Earth's surface - be aware of the risks in your area.
Fire: The Glasgow School of Art fire in 2014 was caused by flammable gases ignited by a hot projector - an event no-one anticipated, despite the value of 'data' stored in the building. The works of art in the school were irreplaceable. While the data contained in your business servers could be just as vulnerable, there's no reason you can't save it.
Illness/Safety incident: An outbreak of illness or even structural problem with your premises may not have a physical effect on your business in the way that fire and flooding would, but could prevent staff attending work or prevent travel. Could remote work be done in your business if your on-site staff were unable to access physical workstations?
Continuity = Client Confidence
The answer from far too many small businesses when it comes to business continuity is that they can't afford it. I think the benefits of business continuity far outweigh the costs: it's not just the peace of mind you receive from knowing your data, infrastructure and employees' jobs are protected from disaster - it's the confidence you can give clients that they are in safe hands. And those costs are coming down: creating a continuity plan itself is free, secure off-site storage (via the cloud) is now cheaper than it's ever been, and remote access software is abundantly available.
Once you make the move, you may find your business in a better position than it's ever been. Continuity across devices and work stations is something that companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google are building into their software as standard: meaning you'll not only be protecting your business but keeping up with competitors across the IT landscape.
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