From The Expert Feature Article
June 03, 2014

Following a Dramatic Winter, Now is the Time to Assess Disaster Preparedness for your Business

By TMCnet Special Guest
Brian Crotty, Chief Operating Officer at Broadview Networks

The record-breaking winter storms in 2014 caused massive headaches for businesses of all sizes, and many companies found themselves dealing with large weather events over and over again.  According to the Insurance Information Institute and data from reinsurer Munich Re, average annual winter storm losses have doubled since the early 1980s.  Some companies like UPS and FedEx are still managing the fallout from winter weather that drove delivery delays during the all-important holiday season.  In some cases, even companies who considered themselves prepared for inclement weather saw best-laid plans foiled by circumstances outside of their control.  The massive traffic jams in the South that trapped employees on the roads for days is just one example. 

Spring brings with it a much-welcome thaw, but also the peak season for tornado activity, which will be followed by hurricane season before a return to ice and snow.  This past season’s storms and the weather threats of the near-future should serve as a wake-up call for every business in every region.  While we cannot predict all storms, we can build infrastructures within our organizations that can greatly reduce the impact of large weather events and even protect against the more ordinary “disasters” that can cripple an ill-prepared business.

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, judicial precincts across the region found themselves plagued by loss of court records, creating enormous backlogs and, in some cases, dismissal of pending cases based on destroyed evidence.  In 2012, as Hurricane Sandy was setting its sights on the Northeast, Philadelphia-based ERSA Court Reporters, a firm that provides legal services like transcription and indexing, began preparing through the tools offered by Broadview Networks’ OfficeSuite, a cloud-based communications system. 

Once ERSA made the necessary adjustments to its schedule of in-person services, a quick visit to Broadview’s website instantly redirected all of ERSA’s calls to the homes of agents.  By the time Sandy roared ashore, all of ERSA’s clients had been notified and the company was operating through a tightly integrated network of employees working across the area.  While ERSA’s competitors and the city of Philadelphia essentially shut down, ERSA team members, as if they were in the office, were answering calls and servicing their clients, many of whom were shocked to be able to reach a live person and pleased to be relying on a business that could seamlessly weather the storm.

The fast-paced world of real estate in New York City – the city that never sleeps – is another sector that all-too-well understands the importance of always being “on.”  With nine offices and 400 agents, premier Manhattan real estate agency Town Residential set staying connected with each other and with clients during Sandy as the company’s number one priority.

Before Sandy, Town Residential’s agents had been taking advantage of OfficeSuite’s ability to simultaneously ring both their desk and mobile phones, but the storm’s impact made this function more than just a convenience – it was a critical need making the difference between a successful sale and a lost opportunity.  Even though one of the agency’s offices was under water and another office did not have power for an entire week, Town did not just stay operational, it thrived - in fact, the agency completed one of the year’s most successful months.  The day after the hurricane hit, Town closed its single largest deal of the year.

While disasters on the scale of Sandy underscore the importance of business preparedness, a company can easily find itself crippled by events that don’t drive national headlines.  A seemingly mundane plumbing issue ballooned into a near-crisis for New York City’s Rubin Museum of Art, home to one of the most comprehensive collections of Himalayan art.  When the museum’s phone and internet became a casualty of a water leak, it found itself without connectivity for almost a month.  Once the amount of business lost due to the leak was assessed, it became clear the museum could not afford anything but complete reliability in their communications system. OfficeSuite was installed at the museum and staff were able to take advantage of the control and flexibility that a cloud-based phone system offers.

When a business can go through a year escaping the enormous impact of a major weather event, it means one of two things.  Either a business’s location has proven to be an extremely lucky one, or a business has shored itself up with a disaster-proof communications system based in the cloud.  As you consider the range of threats to your business’ operations, consider this:  Have you been riding a streak of luck, or are you ready for the threats of the current season, and the next, and the next?

Edited by Maurice Nagle