In an era of digital connectivity and data dependency, continuous access to electricity has never been more critical for Australian small businesses. Yet, many are still unprepared despite the widely reported rise in blackouts stemming from increased infrastructure pressures, greater demand on the grid and unpredictable weather extremes.
Eaton’s Annual Blackout Tracker not only revealed power outages in Australia increased by 19 percent in 2017, but the frequency of small-scale blackouts and the average duration of outages also increased by 39 percent.
The impact of power outages on small businesses is demonstrated by the 2016 South Australian state-wide blackout, which resulted in insurance costs skyrocketing. According to the SA Independent Retailers and Hotels Association the influx of claims made to private insurers relating to blackout expenses led to policy hikes of up to 10 times more than the previous year – with excesses reportedly jumping from $500 to $5000.
Often faced with time constraints and fewer resources, many small business IT systems and IoT devices are consolidated and powered by a central location, where recovery processes can be complex and hard to reach. Over time power disruptions can result in lost productivity and ultimately, profitability.
The unpredictability of power outages means small businesses need to be prepared for when disaster strikes, whether from an everyday blackout or a catastrophic weather event. Mitigating unexpected downtime and disruptions can be achieved by implementing a disaster recovery plan using the following checklist:
- Start the conversation
Speak with all employees and external contractors who are involved in keeping the network running. This will help uncover what systems are most important to the business and need to be maintained during an outage or disaster.
- Check all inventory and hardware at risk – have an asset register
Create a detailed list of hardware needs that outline the original purchase cost and cost to replace in today’s market – including delivery and installation/set-up labour.
- Performance categories
As an extension of hardware, designate all assets as either “Must Have/Business Critical” or “Temporary Downtime”.
- Risk impacts and time parameters
Assign threat levels to determine the likelihood of a disastrous event and the potential impact of downtime. This helps understand how critical equipment will be affected and what the possible remedies available are and the approximate repair times.
- Diagram the network
Keep records of how the network has been configured or set-up to ensure it can be easily replicated following unexpected downtime.
- Know your contacts
Have a contacts book on hand that outlines names, telephone numbers and email addresses of key internal and external personnel needed to bring the network back online.
- Backup data and power supply, and connectivity points
Backup everything, from the server to specialist applications to your points of connectivity. Data needs to be stored outside of the physical place of work – as data may need to be used to create a temporary IT network following an outage. Additionally, always be ready to supply your own backup power through uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) and other power management solutions – to give critical systems and points of connectivity an added layer of protection against blackouts. Always ensure ongoing maintenance of critical devices, such as UPS, to make sure equipment is in good shape to protect IT infrastructure.
- Temporary offsite networks and transportation
Explore many off-site options that have hardware at the ready, even from third-party providers. Work with local transportation vendors and internal teams to make sure mission-critical staff will be available during downtime.
- Voice and email communication
During the first few hours of a disaster or outage, communication is key. Implement a system that outlines responsibilities for resources and requires minimal notice or explanation. Consider backing up your points of connectivity for uninterrupted communication lines and data.
- Employ network connectivity strategies and tools
Combine virtualisation technologies, power management software (PMS) and network monitoring tools to help mitigate threats and everyday power related issues before they become full-blown disasters.
Whether a company of one employee to twenty-five it has never been more important for small businesses to prepare and protect critical infrastructure and become resilient in a time of unexpected downtime.
About the author
Gordon Makryllos, Managing Director Australia and New Zealand at Eaton Industries.
Gordon is the Managing Director ANZ at Eaton Industries and is leading the company’s transformation journey. His industry expertise covers cloud, data centres, power management and infrastructure, and software services.
Prior to joining Eaton, Gordon transformed four different companies into leaders of their industry. Regarded as a thought leader, Gordon writes about the challenges facing CEOs and executive leaders in today’s business climate and is considered one of the top “LinkedIn Power Profiles”.
Gordon holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, Masters in Business Administration and Masters in Organisational Coaching. He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Fellow of the Institute of Managers and Leaders.