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Are you prepared for a cold winter?

This time last year we were watching news reports of how the country was grinding to a halt due to the snow and although we were very fortunate in Bristol, this winter has only just begun. As a business owner you make heroic effort to ensure your business stays open no matter what, but can your business run without its staff? How many days or possibly hours would your customers wait for a response before trying your competitors?

This article is a top 5 tips to keep your business running during an unpredictable winter.

1. Can your staff answer calls from their mobile and home phones?

Having your incoming phone calls diverted to another number is easy. Furthermore, your telecoms provider should be able to set up a hunt group for you so all incoming calls will be sent to multiple numbers. This will allow several staff to answer incoming calls from their mobiles or home phones. Make sure you call your telecoms provider and have these facilities setup in advance. If you already have these facilities then dig out the instructions so you know how to activate the service.

2. Can your staff view and reply to their emails from anywhere?

With email readily available on many devices your customers won’t be forgiving if you don’t answer them promptly. Ensure your staff have access to their email from their home computers using as a minimum webmail. Webmail is a way of accessing your email using Internet Explorer and is equivalent to using facilities such as hotmail.  Most email providers make this facility available if you ask and what is really great is it is usually free!

Checklist

a. Ensure your email provider offers webmail

b. Make sure all of your staff know how to use webmail – if you have purchased your email package from us then please give us a phone and we will talk you through the process in a few minutes.

c. Staff need to remember their username and passwords – get your provider to change passwords to something memorable.

3. Can your staff reschedule jobs and update their diary from home?

If you use Microsoft Exchange your staff can have full access to the Outlook they use in the office from their home PCs and even their mobiles.  The advantage is that when staff are not able to make it to the office they can still have full access to all email facilities, reschedule their diary (and potential other people’s diaries), create and amend tasks and have all contact’s details available.  Of course when they return to the office all of the changes they have made will be automatically present on their office PC.

Checklist

a. Talk to your provider and see if they offer hosted Exchange facilities

b. Ensure you staff have instructions on how to access Outlook from anywhere

c. Make sure staff know their username and passwords

4. Can your staff work from any PC as if they were sat at the desk in the office?

A remote desktop facility will allow your staff to work from any Internet based PC as if they were sat at their desk in the office,  this means they can use everything they use at work: databases, accounts packages, specialist programs and even the printer.  All programs and data remain secure and there is no possibility of virus infection between home and office computers.  These facilities are the ultimate in staff productivity and are not only useful in bad weather but also allow mobile workers to be more productive the rest of the year.

Is all of your data safe, even from water damage?

With cold weather comes burst water pipes, leaking roofs, equipment failure, power issues and the inevitable loss of data. Recently we arrived at our office one morning to find roof damage had allowed a gutter to pour water over a critical PC, what was very releiving is knowing that the worst that could happen is we would need a new PC as the data was completely safe in a data centre. Ensuring your critical data, emails, databases and accounts are backed up is important but ensuring they are kept offsite is imperative if your company is to survive in the case of a catastrophic incident. Our experience demonstrates how a burst water pipe or damaged roof dripping water over your backup device renders the whole onsite backup operation pointless. If you have been putting this one off then now is the time to put in place plans to ensure you can recover quickly if the worst happens.  This article explains a little more about the options available for backups.

It would be great to hear any tips you have for surviving a chilly and unpredictable winter – why not post us your tips by filling in the comment box below.


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