How to Use IT to Help Your Business Survive a Crisis

Enterprises must strive to continue business operations during a crisis. Having the ability to communicate the emergency situation to employees is vital, as is empowering staff to continue to perform their job duties even if they cannot be in the office. By being prepared with a business continuity plan, you minimize the level of business productivity loss that is inevitable whenever a crisis arises. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Jim Lippie explains how to use IT to ensure the viability of your company during a crisis and beyond.

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Maintaining both the short and long-term viability of your business is dependent on the effectiveness of your work force. One of the keys to maintaining employee productivity is the ability to continue business operations during a crisis situation. But crises don't wait for a convenient time. From unplanned downtime to a major disaster, a crisis is anything that impacts your standard business processes in a negative way.

According to recent research, 70 percent of small businesses in the United States experienced a data loss in the past year due to technical or human disaster alone. Despite these many incidences, too few small businesses have a disaster recovery plan in place to minimize these risks. Today, it's imperative that organizations of all sizes recognize and plan for the potential risks that exist in today's IT-focused climate.

The following tips provide a fresh look at how IT can help your business prepare for a crisis situation. These are steps you can take to strengthen your business continuity planning (BCP) and disaster recovery process.

Step No. 1: Keep your employees connected

Identify who is responsible for "making the call" regarding the nature and type of emergency, and empower that person to notify employees when conditions warrant. This person should determine the level of crisis and what the next steps will be. You should have a plan in place to inform employees of the situation both during work hours as well as non-working hours. Ideally, you will want to use a few different means of communication such as broadcast voice mails, e-mail messages, SMS messaging, and a phone number that employees can call to obtain additional information.

Once the level of crisis is determined and communicated, you will need to estimate the duration of the situation. For example, severe weather and power outages are usually short in duration. Alternatively, a flu pandemic (such as one caused by the H1N1 virus) can last significantly longer and would therefore require a different type of plan.