Learning to work through the outage, and not around it

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In the last few years, power outages has become a reality in a number of African countries and a very regular occurrence within many businesses. It leaves many organisations battling to keep operations up and running when the power is down.

While it means all of us need to come to terms with this new reality and adapt accordingly, it is also something that businesses need to address as soon as possible. This is particularly true, as so many businesses are dependent on their IT systems to function – and that means electricity. But it’s time to learn to work through the outages, and not simply around them.

The sudden shift between the different power outage stages is making it difficult for businesses to plan ahead, ultimately affecting their productivity. While they recognise this issue needs to be addressed, very few businesses know exactly where to start, to ensure they can work when the power inevitably stops.

Here’s a look at some scenarios causing issues for businesses, as well as ways to work through them.

Email downtime

For most companies, email is the most important tool for communication and collaboration – it plays a critical role in almost every organisation’s workflow. As a result, keeping email flowing is critical. Lost productivity, reduced customer satisfaction and delayed orders can cause major issues for any organisation. When email is down, for many of us, our business is down too.

Cloud-based email is just one way to ensure that your employees are always connected. Your data centre may be without power but your email doesn’t need to be down too. With your email hosted or replicated in the cloud, your employees can continue to access email remotely. Mimecast’s Email Continuity is one cloud-based solution that steps in automatically to deliver email to employees, during planned and unplanned power outages, giving them the ability to carry on with work as usual. They can access email on their mobile device or move to another location with power to continue as normal, even when their company’s data centre and on-site email infrastructure is out of action.

Secure emailing

What happens to your emails when the power is out? Once the lights go out, it becomes a concern that employees will be able to send unsafe and unencrypted emails, or that your server is left poorly protected from attack. Your security protection can’t be compromised just because the power is off. It is also important to note that email downtime sometimes pushes employees to use their private email accounts, which are not secure and can lead to security issues on your network.

If you rely on security and encryption technologies in your data centre, a power outage means these are down too, leaving your email at risk. Using cloud email services like Office 365, and strengthening their security with additional third party protection from companies like Mimecast, means that the security technologies you need aren’t in your data centre. Your power might be off but your email remains protected.

A break in the supply chain

Power outages will not only affect your employees’ ability to get work done, but also the operations of suppliers and clients. This could cause major issues for your business and how it functions. For this reason, it is recommended that companies also ensure they have the visibility of a supplier’s continuity plan. Critical business relationships might also warrant ensuring suppliers take the same precautions you do. It’s no good you coping well with an outage if the supplier you rely on to keep a customer happy doesn’t do the same. You may as well have gone down too. The effect is the same – unhappy customers.

Planning ahead is what will put businesses in a good position in the face of looming power outages. Ensuring you have systems and plans in place to keep your business up and running might mean some initial costs, but the reassurance you feel and the protection you get from the damage caused when the lights do go off will make that investment more than worthwhile.

— The Author – Brandon Bekker is Managing Director at Mimecast Middle East and Africa

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