Are You Ready? 10 Tips to Be IT Weather-Ready


By Brian Ferguson, Digium

Companies all over the United States are digging their offices out of the snow and employees are braving subfreezing, and often subzero,

temperatures to get to work. Even with these extreme weather conditions in full force, there’s still time for you and your customers to make adjustments and winterize your offices. Winter storms and other year-round weather events cost companies millions of dollars every year in lost productivity due to failed IT infrastructure and bad planning. Here are 10 tips to help ensure that you and your customers are ready:

1) Evaluate Your Systems and Business Processes - Take the necessary time to thoroughly evaluate your current systems and processes to determine your most likely risks. Come to an understanding of what downtimes are acceptable, and what downtimes you simply cannot afford to have. Create an order of priority, for example, of which business systems need to come up first, second, etc. Lastly, ensure that the management staff is on board with your evaluation and understands the importance of creating a disaster recovery plan. If they don’t, walk them through a day being down and help them understand the associated costs.

2) Develop a Disaster Recovery (DR) Plan - There are many things to consider when creating a DR plan, but the key thing to remember is that the “devil is in the details.” Don’t be afraid to over plan. Have an answer for every scenario. Share the plan with everyone in the company and prepare your staff for contingency plans. DR plans are worthless if they have holes in them.

3) Talk To Someone Who Has Been Through It - Several IT leaders who went through Hurricane Sandy in 2012 shared their insights on how to prepare for events like Sandy in the future. Almost all of them said they had talked to people who had been through prior disasters. Having access to that experience provided a more accurate understanding of what really needed to be done to prepare. They were then able to fold that information into their own DR plans. Like those who overcame Hurricane Sandy, the best things you can do is to find someone who has been through a major weather shut down and pick their brains for even the most minute details.

4) Test, Test, and Test Some More. When Done, Test Again - Set up a testing schedule for your DR plan and stick to it. Run it at various times of the day with different staff on hand. This is the best way to make sure your staff is ready for the real thing.

5) Have a Plan for Power Outages - There is nothing worse than having to scour the city in horrific conditions trying to find the last generator on Earth. Figure out what backup power option works best for you and go ahead and invest in it. Even the best DR plans won’t help if you don’t follow through with the plan and make the required investments.

6) Have Back-Up Services - Redundancy isn’t only important at the hardware level, make sure you have backup services in place. This includes multiple Internet services, backup phone lines, etc. Speaking of backup phone lines…

7) Get SIP Trunks - Whether you use them as your primary phone service or as a back-up, SIP trunks are ideal for DR plans. Not only are they cost effective, they can provide automatic failover between multiple sites or to users of mobile phones without any manual interaction, which is exactly what you need in a crisis.

8) Plan to Transition to a Remote Workforce - Keep your employees safe and your business running by providing the necessary tools to keep essential staff working – from home or from a remote office.

9) Consider the Cloud - The Cloud offers companies many benefits, and DR friendly services are a big one. Move your databases, storage, phone system, and more to the Cloud to eliminate the risks of something happening to your physical office.

10) Get a Modern Unified Communications System - There is no better tool to help you employees work remotely or become mobile than a UC system. Mobile apps, presence, voicemail-to-email, touch-less emergency messaging and call routing, and remote collaboration are just a few of the features that can work in the office or remotely.

Now that we have all been reminded of the power of Mother Nature, take the time to get ready for the next round.

Brian Ferguson is a product marketing manager at Digium, which provides Asterisk® software, telephony hardware and Switchvox business phone systems that deliver enterprise-class Unified Communications.