Tech Talk

Emergency Preparedness Week Part 1

 

National Emergency Preparedness, what exactly does this mean. As you all know and directly feel, we’re already in the middle of the pandemic where various provinces have enacted Emergency measures, Public Health, Civil and Protections Acts. So it seems almost strange to be talking about preparing for an emergency when so many businesses are already in a state of emergency.

But this is definitely a strange type of emergency as we have seen many businesses grow and thrive with their ability to pivot and/or change direction. Now, this conversation isn’t to rub salt in the wounds of many people struggling to make ends meet. But instead, highlight opportunities for preparedness.

Modern business is often tilted for those businesses with the most money to help them react in an emergency, while every other business needs to spend time. The unique part about technology is that technology provides the lightsaber necessary for many companies to attack and pivot and react with the unlimited ability with the cost being money OR time. And more often than not, the cost can be pretty low if you spend the time learning.

So for the sake of this topic, we’re going to include emergencies being wildfires, floods, blizzards, blackouts, earthquakes, storm systems, and the newest, Cybercrime, in our thinking of what an emergency is.

We will break this post up into two pieces, one talking about themes before an emergency and one being themes after an emergency. Because my definition of preparedness includes the prep, but follow-through is essential for many business emergencies. It is quite different than simply having a backpack with survival supplies at the ready. As in business, you come back not only to survive but to get a competitive advantage.

The first topic is backups; backups are routinely not taken daily; while some statistics show that 91% of businesses do take back-ups, the reality is only 43% take them daily… Not taking back-ups frequently can render these backups quite useless. Now, of course, having something is better than having nothing. But in the information age, old data pairs well with corked wine. It is not good. Because remember, we are also after the competitive advantage that being prepared brings. So having the most up-to-date and relevant data when coming back from an emergency about your customers or new prospects is the strategy you want to implement. What if you lost the last two months of email? Ask yourself, where would you start? What if you lost that QuickBooks server entirely because the backups are stored on disks that sit next to it? What if you have to restart that research project for a sales bid? While a competitor already has theirs ready… It is vitally essential for your continuity to have relevant data from the start of the offline event.
So for backups, I recommend you follow these three basic guidelines:

  • Backup business data regularly
  • Create backups on reliable media
  • Keep the backups in a secure and offsite location.

The next topic is security; cybercrime lives and breaths off employees, owners and close contacts being tricked into divulging important business information and data. And during an emergency, there is no exception. There is an increase in Cybercrime since the start of the pandemic. (Monteith, 2021) we’ve all first handily seen the rise in SMS spam, fraudulent calls, and email intrusion. Emergencies offer a valuable opportunity for cybercriminals to meet their quota (Cybercrime is a business, don’t forget that). By your organization being scattered, in disarray due to an emergency, this often will give cybercriminals the time to find out what they need to begin their systematic attack. And 91% of the time, Cybercrime starts from a phishing email (Digital Gaurdian, 2017). So preparing yourself and your team to identify, question and discern fraud will go a long way as scammers and hackers ramp up their attempts to access your data. The best defence is education, then monitoring tools, and then re-education because, let’s face it, scams follow trends, and you need to know what is most popular. So I would recommend, if you don’t know where to start, by looking up a local (buy local, yay!) cybersecurity firm asking for a free consultation. This will get you primed with the information and budgetary information you need to make. If you want our help with this, of course, we can.

The next topic is your network, and that is hard, soft, and digital. When one thinks of a network, it often depends on the role or business you have, soft being your peer-to-peer relationships, hard being vendors and clients, and others, of course, digital being electricity and data. During an emergency, you will want to ensure you have access to your network. Often that gets rapidly stripped away in a state of emergency, but having a step-by-step plan to reach out via various methods systematically to your network over your network, can help alleviate that initial stress and alone feeling. So things that you can do now are prep a hard copy of your contacts list; this could be close peers, family and friends, specific vendors, high-touch clients, your bank, your accountant, your employees, or your boss. Having this available and updated once a quarter ensures that if your power goes out and you have no backup battery supply or lost or stolen access point (cell phone, computer), you are at very least able to access your contacts info. It’s low tech, but it works and requires truly little time to update once you’ve done it the first time. Next, you will want to have on standby a battery and an LTE pay as you go hotspot. Both of these devices will prove invaluable when the suds hits the fan. Having something like a 30000 mWh power bank ready to go under your desk can give life to your equipment when you need it most. And help shave off stress units as they build up. For internet access, a secondary or redundant network connection is a great thing. It frequently can feel like a financial burden until let’s say, your competitor can take and make phone calls, emails or texts… and you cant… in a time of crisis. Even if it is pay-as-you-go, having secondary internet access can mean the difference to your customers or future business opportunities.

The last theme for now is a continuity plan in general, and let us scare you into action with some accurate and stark statistics. 54% of companies have experienced prolonged downtime, 40-60% of small businesses never reopen after a disaster, 90% fail if they don’t reopen quickly. (FEMA)
But there is a lifeline here… 96% of business with a recovery plan can fully recover operations… 96%!!!
To us, that is all the proof you need to know that there is an ample bright gleaming light at the end of a potentially very dark tunnel. So we will leave you with eight tips the BDC provides with getting your business continuity plan in places:

  1. Establish an Emergency Preparedness team
  2. Identify essential services/functions
  3. Identify required skill sets and staff reallocation
  4. Identify potential issues
  5. Prepare a plan for each essential service and function
  6. Compare with “preparedness checklist.”
  7. Review with the emergency preparedness team
  8. Revise, test and update the plan

So the first step, if you haven’t taken it already, is to move from thinking about it, t doing it. Having a plan can be a very involved process, but it can prove to be highly invaluable with the right people and team. If you have any questions or want to begin your tech preparedness project. Or simply have an evaluation done of your current systems in place, please feel free to reach out anytime, by connecting with us at [email protected] or visiting us at https://portalnetworks.ca/get-support

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