Three steps for keeping your business connected when frankenstorms attack

The emergence of cloud-based services means that businesses have a wide range of options for maintaining communications and protecting vital information resources in the event of a disaster.

When disasters like tornados and hurricanes strike businesses, bringing the business back online (or better yet, not having your business go down at all) is critical to ensure the enterprise survives, and one of the top priorities is making sure customers have a clear way to reach the company. 

Advance preparation is crucial to ensure businesses stay operational when a disaster strikes, and regardless of your views on climate change, it makes sense to assume the next major disaster is a question of when – not if – it will happen.

Fortunately, the emergence of cloud-based services means that businesses have a wide range of options for maintaining communications and protecting vital information resources in the event of a disaster. Here are three steps to take before the next storm strikes to ensure your organization stays connected in the aftermath of the next major natural disaster.

1. Outline a backup connection plan depending on cloud-based SIP trunking.

Even if your business uses conventional public switched telephone network (PSTN) connections, work with your service provider or integrator to implement a backup system that shifts main communications connections to a cloud-based SIP trunking infrastructure. Having a detailed system and transition plan in place – including connections to office numbers in the local area code – before a disaster ensures a smooth, immediate transition to cloud-based connections, eliminating delays in setting up new connections on the fly, while customers and constituents wonder whether your enterprise has been destroyed.

2. Deploy a cloud-based PBX or unified communications as a service (UCaaS) solution that provides employees with remote access to their business phone lines.

Natural disasters can make your office inaccessible or impossible to use, even if the building remains untouched, through power outages or downed lines and connections. By providing employees in remote offices or in home-offices with access to their business phone extension, businesses can make sure incoming calls continue to be handled efficiently. The key is to make sure someone outside of the immediate disaster area can access and manage their business phone lines. This provision will allow customers and partners to reach a company representative live, who can explain what your organization is doing to maintain services and restore normal business operations.

3. Define a plan to inform customers and partners of how you will maintain communications and operations in advance of a major storm or other events that disrupt normal business operations.

Tornados, fires and earthquakes occur without warning, but in the case of hurricanes, businesses may have several days to prepare. It is important to define a disaster communications plan for informing customers and partners of how you will keep connections open and available in the event that primary connections go down. This process gives customers greater confidence in your business, and maps a clear process for how their needs will be met if a disaster strikes.

4. Deploy communications and data to at least two geographically dispersed locations.

Severe weather and other disasters can overwhelm the most resilient data centers and infrastructure, which is why it’s critical to use more than one location for deploying communications and data. Most public and private cloud providers offer redundancy packages that keep your operations working in the event that one location goes down from a power failure, data link failure or other problems that can arise.

It’s easy to feel powerless when storms like Hurricane Sandy strike or an F5 tornado sweeps through a suburb. Yet taking basic steps to ensure communications links remain open will help keep your business operating, give customers additional confidence and help your employees and your company survive when the next Frankenstorm attacks.

By Charles Studt. Charles is vice president of product management and marketing, IntelePeer.