Snow throws spotlight on business continuity plans

Some businesses aren't prepared for the bad weather.

Even though less than a foot of snow fell across large parts of the UK last night, the travel chaos that has ensued will test most businesses continuity and remote-working policies.

The worst snow since 1991 has seen most London and Southeast England public transport suspended, hundreds of flights out of regional airports cancelled and most schools closed.

Stephen Beynon, ntl:Telewest Business' managing director said that, with the British weather getting even less predictable, those businesses without a business continuity plan in place were set to lose millions of pounds collectively as a result. This financial loss estimate mirrors those made by many other experts today.

"It is an indisputable fact that there will be severe travel disruption and employees cannot make it in to the office," he said. "Businesses can prepare for this with a flexible working policy so that employees can still be productive and continue work, wherever they are."

In fact, at 08.28am this morning, the live feed from satellite navigation service, TomTom HD Traffic was tracking 1,086 miles of traffic and 388 traffic jams on major roads.

Keith Tilley, UK managing director and European executive vice president of SunGard Availability Services, said: "Employers need to do everything they can to allow staff to work from home and ensure that those that do manage to travel to work are well looked after."

SunGard's annual business continuity survey carried out at the end of 2008 revealed that UK small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) were particularly vulnerable to disruption, with only a third having a business continuity plan in place to enable them to continue to operate under any circumstances including bad weather.

Beynon added: "With a home broadband connection and remote working facilities, a business can easily continue its operations and avoid any lost revenue, which is crucial in any economic climate."

Unified communications offers a more adaptive approach towards business continuity, according to Tim Bishop, director of strategy at Siemens Enterprise Communications.

"The benefits of unified communications is having a bundle of functionality, including email and voice, wherever you have a PC and an IP [internet protocol] connection," he said. "And you get added capabilities, like conferencing facilities and presence,' where colleagues can see if you're available or not, packaged together."

In this way, Bishop suggested IT organisations could also provide a secure environment for logging onto business applications. And home workers could cover contact centre-based customer services, particularly for those most at risk in these conditions, like the sick and elderly.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.