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News, opinions and updates from the Virtuoso team.

Jan
26

6 Tips For Managing an Office Efficiently

As an Office Manager, it usually falls on you to keep the office running as efficiently as possible. But when you combine a company of people with different personalities, multiple pieces of office equipment and software media, and a never-ending list of distractions, managing an office efficiently can get a little tricky at times. But all this chaos shouldn’t prevent you. In fact, it should be motivation to keep your office in good form!

If you want to manage an office efficiently and develop your management and leadership skills, here are some office management tips to keep things running easily.

Prepare rather than react.

If you take the time to prepare for your day then you are ready for what happens rather than reacting to the situation when you are in it. Planning for the next day can take some of the stress and guesswork out of your daily life and may help you prioritise tasks more efficiently.

Help yourself out

Writing lists for each area that you cover can be a useful way to make the day seem less daunting. We love Todoist, which is a simple and easy tool for list-making and checking off.

https://en.todoist.com/

Having a schedule will help with planning the day and prioritising your to-do’s. You’ll be more aware of deadlines and make sure nothing is missed off. Make sure you schedule in some breaks too.

 

Set up a filing system that works for you

Most filing is digital now but you still need to be on top of what is stored and where. If the online system is baffling, figure out a more suitable method of filing and put it into place. Make sure that others understand the system too so that everyone is filing correctly.

Minimalise interruptions!

As an Office Manager, you will undoubtedly be answering a million questions at once whilst trying to keep on top of your regular tasks. Having a schedule will help organise your time and will actually help minimalise interruptions as you will be best placed to deal with queries at certain times according to your schedule when you can give it your full attention. Make sure that the times when you know will be quietest are used to their advantage. Turn your phone off, close the door, avoid unnecessary distractions.

Ask for feedback

Having a relationship that is based on openness and honesty within the workplace can do wonders for employee efficiency. Ask for feedback from other staff members and more crucially, respond to it with either a discussion or an active change to acknowledge that their feedback has been taken seriously. TinyPulse is an employee engagement platform that gives leaders online tools to measure and improve company culture.

https://www.tinypulse.com/

Delegate.

It’s hard to hand over responsibility when you know (or think) that it might just be quicker for you to do it. But it may well be a waste of your precious time and if you don’t get out of the habit of taking on too much, you’ll burn yourself out. For example, with computer system administration, make sure that one person is responsible for the security of your computer software and keeping track of passwords etc. Using cloud-based systems is an ideal solution for some and we can help by assuming the day-to-day tasks of your operations and delivery, with a strong focus on rigorous IT governance, quality and operational excellence. role.

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Jan
08

How to Successfully Onboard New Employees

It can always be a major challenge finding the right person to fill a newly vacant position. If you’re the person who has to organize the hiring and subsequent onboarding then there’s a lot more to the work than simply offering the lucky candidate the job and clunking them at a desk with a computer.

A mistake many companies make is thinking that as the candidate has proved themselves suitable through an often gruelling interview process, they will be just fine to be thrown into the position and given minimal supervision, as after all, didn’t they just sell themselves on their quick-learning and adaptability? Employers need to remember that it is THEIR role to ensure that the onboarding process is carried out thoroughly, efficiently and with the proper levels of communication with the new employee(s).

We are going to break down the key parts of the onboarding process and the best practices and key things to remember from each.

Employee Onboarding

First Steps: Don’t wait for your employee to start before you begin outboarding! There are many things you can do beforehand to help ease the transition and take some of the stress out of the first day. Create a checklist to ensure all documentation that they are expected to fill in is ready for them, and ensure that their manager or colleague are briefed as to the onboarding process and able to answer any questions the employee may have. Make sure that the new employee’s work area is set up and all technical equipment is working correctly and ready to be logged on with a new user. And lastly, it won't hurt to provide the new employee with any reading material about the company that they can read ahead of time to help familiarise themselves with the history of the company and/or the role.

What your new employee checklist should contain:

  • A review of company policies.
  • An introduction to their team and key colleagues.
  • A tour of office and workspace.
  • A review of general position information.
  • Assistance getting and setting up equipment, including computers.
  • A review of their upcoming schedule.
  • Ensuring that all necessary forms are filled out.
  • A review of work hours.

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.Tech know-how

It can be easy to forget that whilst you and your team may have been using the Super-Mega-CRM-3000 for the last 15 years and are all well versed in its quirks and technical specs, for a newbie it may be completely different to the system they are used to and will take some getting used to. Providing clear and thorough training on using any tools and tech that the role requires will speed up the adjustment process, getting your new employee confidently up and running in no time.

.Don’t forget the social side!

When a new person joins your company, obviously the key essentials in ‘orientation’ will include the legal bits and bobs such as contracts, HR documentation, and equipment or tech handover and finance info. However don’t forget that a happy employee is a good employee, with research proving that happy employees are 12% more productive than unhappy ones.

So to ensure that your new employee starts off as a happy one, ensure that they become oriented in the other important aspects of the company such as its values, culture and people. It is important for new employees to be involved in socializing within the company whilst they are receiving training. This will help them feel comfortable and secure within their new position and company and will help them understand more about the different roles within the business and the people that perform them.


What are the benefits?

It shortens the learning curve. Companies with an effective onboarding process that provide on the job training give new employees a safety net. Starting a new job can be terrifying and as an employee you may find that aspects of the company culture or workload are not quite as you expected. Let alone a new environment, workmates, location… It can really be quite daunting. By providing training for new employees you give them the chance to get to know the company and its workings better and with familiarity comes happiness. And of course, the more training you provide, the quicker the new employee gets up to speed and is confident in his or her new role.

Provides useful feedback

The more training a company does, the quicker and easier it becomes to see how efficient the training program is and thus further refine it. Getting an employee up to speed may take some time in training that the company may feel it doesn’t have enough of, but without feedback the employee can become disengaged and that’s a bad place to start a new working relationship!

Socially integrates new employees

Being the new person at work can be isolating and stressful. Companies must make a conscious effort to introduce new employees to other staff as soon as possible and encourage the working relationship between them where appropriate and relevant. The quicker a new employee feels comfortable with his or her peers, the quicker they will feel comfortable asking for help or offering it if that is the case. Employee engagement and productivity go hand in hand, 22% of employees are less engaged at work because of workplace conflicts.

On-the-job training and providing mentors can prove to be a successful and efficient way of ensuring employee engagement and happiness.

Finally

So your new employee is clued up on the tech, has met everyone in the office, filled out all the forms and feeling confident and happy to continue work with less supervision. Great stuff! One more thing though… everyone knows that problems and unusual situations can arise with no warning, it is key that you make sure that your new employee knows where to access support when they need it. If they have a mentor that is a great person to provide this level of support and trust for them, as they will hopefully have a long and positive working relationship with them. But also make sure that they have access to resources that they might need for specific tasks that haven’t cropped up yet.

Making sure that you follow a comprehensive and thorough onboarding process can ensure that your new employee integrates into the company quickly and happily.

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Jul
17

The Benefit of Insight - Mitigating Costly New Technology Risks For Continued Stability and Profitability

Contrary to what you may read, IT costs don’t necessarily have to skyrocket as your business grows. Small and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs) just have to be more cognisant of where their technology investments are going and what they’re truly getting as return on their investment.

As businesses rely more than ever on technology for day-to-day functions, managers realise that they simply cannot afford the lost productivity, lost revenue and the negative impact on business reputation that comes with a downed system or network.

At the same time, many businesses can’t justify the costs of employing any  full or part-time IT support given today’s economy. In fact, many small-to-medium sized businesses choose to pay for on-site support on an as- needed basis as opposed to having one or several dedicated IT employees on payroll.With the recent buzz about the potential benefits and cost savings of virtualisation software and cloud computing, many SME executive teams are rethinking how their technology investments are currently allocated.

Two things you’ll find many technology dependent peers focusing on today are a greater return on investment (ROI) and a lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

 

Executive Perspectives to Tech ROI and TCO

ROI is calculated by dividing the cost reduction and avoidance realised over a period of time by the total amount invested over that same time span.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is most commonly related with four categories in the business/tech world.

▪ Downtime

Smart  executives ask themselves “What does it cost my business when my employees, extended teams and/or our customers can’t get to the data they need.” Downtime includes ALL costs linked to server downtime – both planned and unplanned – along with mostly hidden soft costs that aren’t necessarily easy to quantify such as lost employee productivity and business as a result of downtime.

▪ Hardware and Software

The price of the server, hardware and software purchases, contracted tech support and maintenance, training services, upgrades, and backup and virus protection software.

▪ IT Operations

Network and storage infrastructure, server deployment and configuration, data centre power and cooling, and other system-related administrative tasks.

▪ Business Administration

All costs related to business processes like labor costs, purchase approvals, vendor contract negotiation and procurement process tracking.

 

Re-evaluate Your “Status Quo” Approach to IT

As referenced earlier, small-to-medium size companies can be severely understaffed when it comes to IT support. With so many technology changes emerging in recent years, this puts your businesses at an increased risk for network failure, data loss and security threats – all of which can be enough to put an ill-prepared company out of business.

The first instinct of  many  CFOs and/ or CIOs is to hire more in-house IT staff to address  technology  challenges. This may actually be the right move in some instances but let’s consider a few potential, and common, issues with this. First, beyond budget restraints, it has become increasingly frustrating for many businesses to successfully manage their internal IT operations on their own. Turnover is generally high because many IT professionals view smaller companies as a stepping stone or training ground prior to moving on to larger employers. The result is a cycle of recruiting, training, and ultimately replacing IT technicians that becomes a royal hassle for many businesses.

Additionally, limited IT resources often lead to an increase in human errors made by techs juggling too many responsibilities. A multitude of recent industry studies have estimated that up to 40% of today’s outages stem from human error made by in-house IT staff. And, your internal staff will spend anywhere from 25 to 50% of their time identifying and addressing these issues.

The industry term for this is a “break/fix mentality” – this is essentially pulling an alarm and having an on-call IT technician rush in to put out a fire. This approach comes with substantial direct costs to your business or organisation in the form of high hourly rates, trip fees, surcharges, and hardware/software service or replacement fees. Losses from downtime must also be considered since it can take 24-48 hours for many IT consultants to even get on-site to address an issue, and resolving these issues aren’t always a same day fix.

Both scenarios hardly seem like a way to improve ROI and decrease TCO.

 

Reduce TCO with Virtualisation and a “NEW” Managed Services Approach

Your peers are finding new technology innovations like virtualisation and the cloud as a way to save money. Virtualisation and cloud computing are a cost-effective means to move the contents of entire servers into one offsite virtual server or software bundle – this includes all applications, data, operating systems and patches. The need for fewer physical servers reduces hardware and energy costs, data size requirements and makes overall IT management and backup/recovery easier.

According to series of studies compiled by VMWare (a US-based cloud and virtualisation software and services company), businesses that have implemented virtualisation have reduced total cost of ownership in IT operations by up to 67%.

While there has been much attention called to the positives of these new innovations, SMEs owners and managers have little to no visibility to the new set of risks and the incremental costs that accompany this new technology.

This new technology, while highly productive, also has the  potential  to be disruptive given the increased risk for security breaches in the cloud and the learning curve of team members adapting to new technology and software applications. The life of a system administrator also becomes more complex given the demands of always-on employees/customers and the greater need to backup data and recover immediately in the event of an unplanned outage.

The reality is many of the headaches that come with new technology aren’t fully realised until months, if not years, into their implementation – and this may be too late.

Management today needs more visibility to the real risks at hand, along with new solutions and methodologies. Partnering with a managed services provider (MSP) is one new approach being used by many of your peers today. Experienced MSPs have access to newer tools that reduce costs by automating many routine in- house labor intensive processes. Break- fix is labor intensive, and labor is one of the most expensive operating costs within your IT infrastructure. These innovative tools generate real productivity increases and mitigate the risk of network failure, downtime or data loss from human error.

MSPs deliver a trusted foundation for your team and your customers – some of the services and tasks offered include:

▪Remote Desktop Management and Support

▪Predictable Management of Critical Patches and Software Updates

▪Fractional Resource Availability of Best- In-Class Expertise – scaled to your needs

▪Implementing and Testing Backup and Disaster Recovery Processes

▪Performance of Inventory and Audits of Computer/Network/Software

▪Enforcement of Network/Security Policy

▪Mobile Data Management and Monitoring

▪Monitoring of Network/Operating System and Alerts

▪Updating Anti-Virus Software and Detecting Spyware

 

Examples of MSP - generated savings cited by Wipro Limited, an India-based IT consulting company:

▪ Alert Monitoring - MSP automation of this task has led to an 80% reduction of in-house monitoring that delivers  visibility to risks that were previously unidentifiable.

▪ Service Tasks/Help Desk Requests or Ticketing – MSP automation  of  these  tasks  have led to a 30% reduction of in-house support ticket-related efforts – saving countless hours of paying for employees  and  team members to stand idle

▪ Reporting – MSP service-level management tools and dynamic dashboards have led to complete automation of reporting and business communication efforts. Network trust increased and fear of unknown risks reduced so management can sleep at night?

 

Erase any misconception that MSPs are nothing more than “outsourced” tech help priced to displace your in- house IT technician or team. The new MSP has defined effective processes; methodologies and technology partnerships to offer valuable preventive services that proactively identify and eliminate threats before a bigger problem arises.

Whether an MSP assumes full responsibility for IT operations or acts as an ally to an in-house IT technician or team, the toolsets and education they provide to SMEs are invaluable. An MSP’s expertise and availability is what sets them apart from the “fireman-like” break-fix provider.

By enlisting an MSP, management teams are making a technology investment in proactive risk management rather than any one individual’s technical skills.

MSPs put considerable effort into understanding the operational and business needs of SMEs to develop and deliver a set of specific services that align technology with the SMEs business objectives. This is the reason you hear managed services often referred to as “partners.”

In an increasingly competitive environment where technology evolves at a rapid pace, businesses must fully leverage innovation to  better  meet the needs of their employees and the expectations of their customers. Much of this hinges on an organisation’s ability to increase system reliability for their business continuity, team productivity and customer satisfaction.

This can be achieved with the expertise of a trusted MSP. A present- day MSP offers quantifiable economic value, greater ROI and decreased TCO by streamlining costs, eliminating unnecessary lost productivity and revenue, and avoidable on-site IT consultant fees and hardware/software repairs or replacement.

 

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Mar
10

Staying Alive: The Definitive Guide to Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery for Small Businesses

As a small business owner, you owe it to yourself, your employees, stakeholders, and any customer you serve to honestly answer this one question: Is your business resilient enough to withstand short or long-term interruptions to its operations?

The answer should be immediate. If you have to pause or think for one second before responding, the answer is no. Each day of business brings with it unforeseen risk. Whether it’s catastrophic weather conditions, cyber- security threats, or the vulnerabilities of the technology we’re dependent on to perform daily work functions, there must be both a business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) plan in place. There must also be complete confidence in the effectiveness of the BC/ DR strategies that are implemented.

The truth of the matter is most small-to- medium sized businesses (SMEs) aren’t doing nearly enough when it comes to continuity and disaster planning. It’s inconceivable that in this era where smaller businesses store more sensitive data than ever before, and the risk of losing this data is so great, that a 2011 Systematic survey revealed that up to 57% of small businesses still have no business continuity or disaster recovery plan in place.

A few years ago, a study conducted by Forrester Research concluded that 66% of businesses with fewer than one hundred employees admitted to having no tested response to not just tech issues like a downed server or network but disasters, emergencies, and power outages.

This e-guide breaks down some of the potential costs of short and long-term business interruptions, why far too many SMEs don’t have a solid business continuity/recovery plan in place, and the necessary steps SMEs can take to get prepared.

 

A Competent BC/DR Strategy Is a Must

Often misconceived as a problem for the “big guys,” business continuity is a concern for businesses and organisations of all sizes – whether there are 5 or 5,000 employees. The costs of having no solutions in place are too high for many smaller companies to rebound from. Several hours of unplanned downtime can result in thousands of dollars lost each hour.

That’s the kind disruption a small business may face from a shorter-duration tech issue or power outage. Imagine the consequences of longer lasting outages, where a business may be down for days or weeks, as seen in natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, or acts of terror like the 2001 World Trade Centre attack.

Beyond the immediate  tangible costs of outages like lost productivity and revenues, there is also an intangible domino effect that may be harder to quantify. The repercussions can greatly exacerbate the total losses over time, for instance

▪ Customers/Clients Jumping to a Competitor:

The web hosting company 1&1 Internet, Inc. reported that 72% of web users admit to abandoning a business for a competitor if they can’t instantly access a company website or encounter numerous error messages, problems placing an order, or issues accessing online features/support. People want immediate gratification today and will take their dollars elsewhere if they don’t get it. Even more alarming is the fact that 58% are likely to never return, which means the loss of long-term revenue streams. Perhaps they may be more forgiving in the event of a crisis like a natural disaster but there will still be those who go to a competitor and never come back.

▪ Word-of-Mouth/Negative Brand Reputation:

Thanks to the power of social media, those frustrated by instances of downtime will take to Facebook or Twitter to quickly spread their vitriol. Brand building and reputation management are critical to small businesses. Any negative attention and publicity brought on by downtime can have long lasting consequences.

▪ Disgruntled Employees:

In small companies or organisations, the burden of troubleshooting recurring tech issues or getting a system back online will typically fall upon the shoulders of an already busy, possibly overworked, employee. This multi-tasking employee will have to  sacrifice  bigger priorities to constantly play damage control. He or she will sometimes have to do this outside of normal work hours and may be pulled away from projects that generate revenue. If they aren’t happy about this, they may seek employment elsewhere. Both high turnover and the inability to use an employee’s knowledge and skill set for revenue generating tasks are costly to small-to-medium sized businesses.

 

Too Many SMEs Aren’t Prioritising BC/DR Plans

Businesses are fuelled by information. They are defined by their ability to efficiently and safely handle the data and vital information they generate or process on a daily basis. It is this data that keeps their day-to-day business functioning, ensuring optimal customer service and interaction.

While protecting data is a priority for large enterprises, small-to-midsize business owners have the same responsibility but are challenged by limited budgets. For a start-up, the entire focus must be customer-facing, with few resources directed at anything not driving short- term revenues.

This means far too many SMEs today are failing to employ some very basic safeguards to ensure BC/DR.

A September 2011 CDW Business Continuity Straw Poll suggested that 82% of U.S. service disruptions could be reduced or altogether eliminated by even the most basic BC/DR plan. So why aren’t more SMEs taking these precautions?

▪ Failure to Recognise a Problem:

Most SMEs don’t think about business continuity or disaster recovery until its too late and they’re scrambling to recover after being taken down. It’s ironic since so much focus goes into keeping a business sustainable by growing sales, or outdoing the competition, yet a vital part of “staying in business” is overlooked when it comes to their supporting technology.

▪ Intimidating and Complex Planning Tools:

SMEs looking to streamline costs and simplify procedures will sometimes write off BC/DR practices as unnecessary. Those who do recognise the importance of preparedness are often overwhelmed by the complex technical jargon that accompanies business continuity planning and don’t know where to begin when they hear terms like “business impact analysis” and “risk assessments.”

▪ They Feel as if They Can’t Afford It and They’re On Their Own:

Decision makers may know they’re living on the edge without a tested strategy, however, they don’t realise that new technology trends, and the availability of products like managed service providers (MSPs), can reduce costs and save on resources. MSPs can leverage their knowledge of an SME’s specific needs with the numerous cloud and hosted backup and recovery tools currently available today.

 

Three Steps to Improved BC/DR Planning

 

Step 1 – Recognise the Need and Importance

Business continuity and disaster recovery strategies tend to be on the to-do lists of many SMEs, but they are often delayed as more urgent business issues emerge.

U.S. businesses lose roughly $1.7 billion in profit each year from network outages according to the same 2011 CDW business continuity survey referenced earlier. Obviously, it isn’t smart  business for an SME to let business continuity and disaster recovery planning become an afterthought.

To structure a solid business continuity plan, SMEs must be prepared for all possible disruptions. It is important to note that business continuity goes beyond being prepared for natural or man-made disasters. We are now so technologically dependent that BC/DR plans must be in place to counter any  disruption  – big or small - that threatens business and profitability. Internal technical or infrastructure failures or cyber attacks are obvious examples. Small internal “single-points-of-failure” can bring down an entire operation.

 

Step 2 – Impact Analysis and Risk Assessment

Constant availability is critical to success.

In order to minimise downtime, it’s important to determine what technology is behind each phase of your business operations. Knowing the technology infrastructure of your business allows for a comprehensive impact analysis and a better grasp of the impact on business operations when specific technology fails or becomes unavailable - even for a short period of time.

Determining what could unexpectedly bring down each piece of that infrastructure is risk assessment. Risks come in the form of either internal or outside threats.

Internal threats can be anything from an application failure, disk crash, and server malfunction to human error or a bitter employee.

External threats can vary depending on location–natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, floods, and fires, as well as man-made events like power outages, acts of terror, and accidents can knock out services. Additionally, our dependency on technology leaves firms susceptible to cyber-attacks like malware, computer viruses, phishing schemes, and the theft of personal mobile devices used for work purposes.

While major disasters do occur, and shouldn’t be overlooked, it is the smaller everyday disruptions like power outages, server crashes, email issues, equipment failure, and lost or corrupted data that pose the bigger risk to business.

Doomsday prepping may be the rage these days, but a sound BC/DR plan typically begins by focusing on addressing the day-in and day-out disruptions first. Documenting, reviewing, communicating, and testing the effectiveness of smaller response scenarios will better prepare businesses for potential disasters and longer-term disruptions.

 

Step 3 – Look to Recent Tech Trends That Simplify Planning

Recent technology developments like server and desktop virtualisation, cloud computing, and mobile devices are beneficial to SMEs looking for BC/DR solutions.

Virtualisation – BC/DR preparedness may be the most compelling reason to consider virtualisation. Virtualisation allows businesses to condense data and applications onto fewer servers - taking up less space and consuming less power. Virtualisation allows small-to- medium sized businesses the benefit of high availability (HA) without the added expense of building a backup data centre. Operations can be restored faster as the entire system can be brought back in a single virtual container. 

Cloud Computing – More firms are moving to the cloud for backup services. The cloud has enabled small and medium sized businesses to backup operations away from their primary location and enhance their business continuity process at a reduced cost.

Cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) packages often come with built in business continuity solutions that can automate data backup processes on- site or off-site – spreading out risks and minimising the impact of a disaster. Data, servers, software, and tools can be stored in the cloud and remain safe if a business is hit by a computer virus or disaster.

The cloud also allows remote workers to access an organisation’s communication and collaboration tools, further allowing for “business as usual” in the event of a serious disruption.

Although it is understandable that ownership and upper management at small to medium sized businesses are hesitant to spend money, BC/DR planning is a lot like insurance. It's human nature to think that bad things won't happen to you, but the investment pays off when you're hit by an extreme event or emergency.

New technology trends and the backup-as-a-service, remote backup, and online backup services provided by MSPs have given SMEs the ability to safeguard their business operations at a reasonable cost. Money and resources can no longer be an excuse for a lack of solid BC/DR solutions. There is way too much at risk.

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Feb
03

Whitepaper: Backup vs. Business Continuity

SMEs in general don’t have the same IT budgets and staffs as larger enterprises. Yet just like larger organisations they need to protect their data—and make sure they can get back to business rapidly after a disaster or other event that compromises their data and systems.

In this white paper, we’ll discuss what’s at stake when it comes to not just protecting, but also managing, your data (hint: your business). We’ll explain why it’s important to think in terms of business continuity rather than simply data backup. And we’ll look at how to calculate the all-important Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) so that you can get what you need from your business continuity vendor.

 

Datto Whitepaper: Backup vs. Business Continuity

 

 

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Jan
05

What You Can Learn From U.S. Regulator’s Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Recommendations

U.S regulators have recommended that all futures and securities firms review and update their current data backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity solutions. 

Prompted by closures in the equities and options market in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Regulators including the SEC, FINRA, and the CFTC contacted firms to assess the impact Hurricane Sandy had on their operations

The regulators asked each firm for specifics regarding any backup disaster recovery (BDR) and business continuity plan (BCP) they had in place prior to Hurricane Sandy. The responses they gathered were compiled to develop a list of best practices and lessons learned.

The regulators have since gone on to suggest that all firms refer to these best practices and lessons as part of reviewing and improving upon their current BDR and BCP procedures. By doing this, the regulators hope that firms will be better prepared for similar events. Regulators feel that a comprehensive BDR and business continuity strategy will help firms improve responsiveness and minimise downtime.

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have always stressed the importance of the BDR and BCP solutions they offer to small-to-medium-sized businesses. That said, it doesn’t hurt to see what government regulators recommend to those handling our money. We’ve summarised portions of the full report, addressing only the parts that we feel can easily be applied to SMEs. The full report can be read here at http://www.sec.gov/about/offices/ocie/jointobservations- bcps08072013.pdf.


Widespread Disruption Considerations

True business continuity plans go beyond technology.  What is the probability of a widespread lack of telecommunications during a disaster? We’re talking no Internet and no cell phone coverage. Large-scale events can knock out power and limit our access to drinkable water and food supplies.  Getting around may be complicated.  Roadways might be inaccessible and fuel may be scarce. Part of being prepared for the unknown is to assess how any plausible scenario would impact day-to-day operations and services.

A critical component to business continuity planning is remote access. Every employee should have the ability to efficiently work from home if a disaster strikes or blocks access to the office. If there is no power or no Internet and phone, alternatives should be defined to carry out key operations.

 

Alternative Location Considerations

The implications of region-wide disruptions must be factored into the location choices for backed-up data centres. Keeping backups within close proximity may seem like a smart strategy to ensure they’re readily accessible, but this does you no good if it’s a region wide disruption.

When it comes to supporting business critical activities at an alternative location, what will be the site’s staffing needs? How about office space, equipment, and available resources? Printed copies of the business continuity plan, contact lists, and other business documents and manuals should also be kept at the alternate site if electronic files can’t be accessed.

 

Vendor Relationships

Any critical vendor relationships should also have an adequate business continuity plan, as they may be affected by the same event as you. Vendors risk ratings should be considered based on the quality of their BDR and BCP strategies.

 

Telecommunications Services and Technology Considerations 

The telecommunications infrastructure must be enhanced. Consider secondary phone lines, backup mobile phone services with different carriers, emergency Wi- Fi spots, and cloud technology.

 

Review and Testing

Annual full BCP tests should be conducted. If the business continuity plan changes often, more frequent testing is recommended. All personnel should be trained for their specific role in the plan.

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