“Last year was the worst year we’ve had in the history of disasters.” – Al Berman, Disaster Recovery Institute.

That sounds pretty ominous, but what exactly does it mean?

Organizations have been facing costly downtime and the frustrating task of getting systems back online and operations up and running in the aftermath of earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and more. A disaster can be as simple as a single building power failure or severe and horrific as the Japanese tsunami. Even if the event is isolated, the after effects can permeate throughout an organization, especially if employees are dispersed and required to collaborate remotely.

What’s alarming though is that countless organizations do not have a business continuity plan in place. These plans outline the processes and procedures needed to react quickly in situations and limit the amount of disaster recovery efforts needed in the aftermath.

So what is the best way to go about preparing for a disaster?

Redundancy is Key
A business continuity plan must be defined and agreed upon by all stakeholders and have well-defined IT strategy that includes redundant systems housed in multiple locations. If the organization relies on cloud hosting providers, ensure those data centers are geographically dispersed. For example, if your host is 10 miles up the road and the entire region is hit by a massive hurricane, the redundancy of the cloud will be null and void.

Enable Collaboration
Communication is perhaps the highest priority during disaster situations; therefore, any plan should include how to maintain contact with all employees. Unified communications technology plays a critical role as it keeps employees connected throughout day-to-day operations. In addition, these systems are essential to keeping the lines of communication open during a crisis. It’s far better to have employees doing their jobs during these times than spending the time trying to figure out how to do their jobs.

Harness the Power of Video
Most organizations know the power of video conferencing along with its application during normal business operations. However, video becomes even more powerful in times of duress. It can enable face-to-face collaboration in situations where people cannot meet due to crisis circumstances, such as the volcanic eruption in Iceland that stalled air travel. Keeping people connected and communicating face-to-face will facilitate better operations in addition to relieving some of the stress of the situation.

Don’t Forget the Customer
As always, the customer is paramount. An organization can do a great job keeping the business running but if they forget about the customer their efforts may be useless. Most customers will be sensitive to the situation but they are still going to expect to be served. When defining a continuity plan ensure customer communications and service are a top priority. If customers are communicating to the organization primarily via voice, the phone system must have multiple redundancies. Also, it is critical to be able to redirect voice traffic when employees can’t make it to the office.

With a well-defined business continuity plan in place, organizations can continue to function at the highest level possible while still serving their customers. A plan that takes internal and external communication and collaboration into account will not only benefit the organization but also its employees, customers and ultimately its well-being.

If you are a small or mid-sized business owner, you probably know the secret to success lies in the quality of the relationships with customers. In an increasingly competitive corporate landscape where consumers have access to more information and more choices than ever before, small companies must build and maintain closer, more personal bonds with their clients. It is this customer-focused approach that helps small businesses please customers and increase revenue.

Of course, most organizations recognize the importance of providing outstanding customer service, but small businesses are truly in the position to deliver. They can use video conferencing technology to not only keep up with competitors in their market space, but to create more efficient processes that are needed to stay competitive and keep customers coming back.

For example, video can help small businesses:

Reach out to customers: Video conferencing allows small to mid-sized businesses to extend the personal feel of the face-to-face interactions that are their hallmark. When clients can actually see the customer service agent or sales person they are speaking with, trust is more readily established and relationships are built.

Connect remote employees: When company meetings require the participation of many remote workers, time and travel expenses can add up quickly. Video can unite dispersed teams, facilitate discussions, and foster a collaborative environment – even when employees are not based in the same corporate location.

Speed up decision making: Management teams that meet frequently to discuss corporate strategy and resolve businesses issues can do so efficiently face-to-face, without leaving their offices. Desktop systems enable busy executives to connect with each other at the touch of a button, and in doing so, receive the benefits of in-person conversations.

Shorten product development time: Smaller companies can get a leg up on the competition by using video to abbreviate a product’s time to market. Video cuts down on development time by easily connecting design teams with remote subject matter experts and other knowledge workers with specific expertise.

Train more effectively: Human resources departments at smaller businesses often consist of one or two HR professionals that communicate company policies and training material to the entire staff. Video provides the ability to communicate more efficiently by delivering one message to many people simultaneously; the same message can be streamed or delivered to all workers’ desktops or remote devices at once.

Align business divisions: Even when a company is small there are no guarantees that all departments will communicate well with each other. For example, inter-departmental use of desktop video systems makes it easier for accounting to sync up its data with purchasing, or marketing to share new material with the sales team; at moment’s notice any member of the departments can have a face-to-face conversation.

Work-life balance: Skilled employees have a choice of where to work, and companies often need to compete with incentives to hire the best in the business. Video gives organizations the ability to offer a work-life balance by allowing employees to work from a home office or mobile device when needed, yet still retain the feeling of being there.

Small businesses can especially benefit from cloud based-services to help make managing the technology and expense of video conferencing easier. In addition, these services allow remote employees and customers using consumer-based video solutions or tablets and smartphones to connect effortlessly.

Collaboration, team work, relationships and communication; these are some of the latest buzzwords in business today. Companies are not only embracing the collaboration era but looking for ways to enhance communication and strengthen relationships between colleagues, business partners and even customers.

The result: video enabled organizations.

The benefits of video conferencing are undeniable and technological innovations have made video more accessible and easier to use than ever. As a result, organizations are adopting visual collaboration solutions at a rapid rate. However, while some organizations are creating a competitive advantage with stellar results; others see the equipment slowly collect dust.

So, what makes the difference between the two outcomes? How can an organization ensure a successful video implementation?

Simple, effectively manage the implementation and build a video culture.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done as organizations tend to underestimate the amount of time and planning required to effectively manage a video implementation. A company must consider the impact the technology has on the interrelated subsystems within an organization; including the behavioral subsystem (the people), the structural subsystem (the process), and the technological subsystem (the equipment).

An integrated approach to adoption must be used as the impact of a new technology reaches beyond the equipment, affecting the people and the process within an organization. Failure to consider these inter-dependencies can result in significant resistance and even abandonment of the solution.

To dig deeper into this trend and understand some of the best practices and key areas to consider, download our new white paper.

The prevalence of cloud services has begun a heated debate among IT professionals and spurred two different types of thinking. One side consists of professionals that prefer to handle all IT components in-house and more or less resist the cloud. The other side consists of professionals who are embracing the cloud and prefer to outsource certain components to different experts.

This leads to the challenge most IT professionals face; should we continue to do everything ourselves or embrace the cloud? Let’s start by further defining the two different positions.

While some IT professionals fear the cloud because they believe it will steal part of, if not their entire job; the majority oppose the cloud due to a loss of control over their entire IT environment. This position often stems from a distrust of things they cannot control directly and the security associated with keeping the power in the hands of people located within the organization.

As a result, these professions prefer to keep all IT aspects in-house to maintain order. If anything goes wrong, these IT directors know exactly who is responsible and whom to go to; allowing them to monitor the situation until it has been fixed. With the cloud, all they can do is call their service provider and pray for a speedy resolution which leads to frustration.

But, the cliché “jack of all trades, master of none” still holds true. What happens when those people don’t know how to fix the situation in an efficient or effective manner?

This has led to a new school of thought among IT professionals; built on open minds and forward thinking, as the concept of IT has changed almost as rapidly as the technology itself. IT is no longer a range of similar tasks applied to similar technologies, but a sprawling universe of ever-changing technologies that is so vast and fluid it is nearly impossible to master all of its intricacies. Visual collaboration, unified communications, cloud computing, digital signage and content distribution make up only a fraction of the technologies organizations use to conduct business today.

Ongoing innovations in these fields change on a monthly basis and the rate of progression will only continue to increase. The best organizations are able to stay ahead of the technology curve creating a competitive advantage while organizations that fail to adapt fall further and further behind.

The bottom line is IT for the modern corporation is not what it was five years ago. Failing to stay on top of the latest trends and innovation can mark the death of your IT career faster than outsourcing or the cloud.  Therefore, if you decide to keep everything in-house, invest not only in certified professionals but in their continued training and development.

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It’s here, Friday the 13th, and I have a huge meeting today. I woke up in a panic last night because I had a nightmare that I completely bombed the presentation and then got fired. I don’t understand why they had to schedule this meeting today – do they not understand I have the worst luck ever?

Then I’m walking to my car this morning and a black cat crawled right in front of me and gave me the stare down. This is a bad omen, something is going to go wrong, I just know it. As I’m driving, I start making a list of everything that I need to do to ensure this presentation goes well.

I checked with our receptionist to make sure the conference room was booked and then scheduled a pre-test with the client to ensure we could connect easily and push content without any issues. While I was in the conference room I straightened up to make sure everything looked nice as well.

After that, I went back to my desk and put together an outline of what I wanted to cover. Then I went through my PowerPoint slides to ensure I wasn’t missing anything. With about a half hour before the meeting, I decided to just get to the conference room so I could get set up. Everything seems to be in place, but you just never know.

I connected my laptop, got the presentation ready and decided to do a quick test run with Barry just to be sure everything was working properly. He said the content was crystal clear and everything looked good.

Time for the call, here goes nothing!

Wow the call connected perfectly and I’m speaking to the CEO about his weekend plans. Everyone else has joined the call so it’s time to begin. The presentation is displayed and it looks great. This is going too well something is bound to happen.

Next thing I know, it’s time for questions which I answered quickly. Now everyone is saying goodbye and have a great weekend. I disconnected the call and just sat there for a minute. Wow, everything went perfectly, a little planning goes a long way I guess.

As I was strutting my stuff back to my desk I tripped over the carpet and went flying. Not exactly sure how I managed to save my laptop from getting crushed but whew that would’ve been embarrassing!

Ah well happy Friday the 13th!