As many people may know, my family and I live in the outskirts of Calgary. It is a great spot, as we are close to the mountains, yet not far away from the comforts of a big city. Over the past several days, Calgary has experienced some of the worst flooding that it has ever seen, and this flooding has caused mandatory evacuations for much of the low-lying areas and for much of the downtown core (where the majority of the main business takes place). Thanks to some great preparation, the loss of life has been minimized, but it is going to be a long time before the city fully recovers.
Just about every city has something that can cause major issues, ranging from ice storms in many areas, to threats of tornados, hurricanes and even earthquakes. In addition, man-made acts (such as acts of terrorism) can spark mandatory evacuations and long periods of downtime for many businesses.
This got me to thinking (as it has for many business owners in Calgary today, I am sure).....how prepared is our business in the event of such a disaster? While the first thoughts should be to ensure the safety of your staff, business owners/operators have to also think how they can protect their business during these times.....is there a way to protect your revenue as well as your team?
While there are certain businesses that simply will lose their revenue during these times (such as if you operated a restaurant that was flooded today in downtown Calgary), many businesses can use M2M solutions to help keep operations moving as smoothly as possible.
Backing up key Internet connections
It doesn't take a major disaster to disrupt your business' ability to communicate. Sometimes, disasters can be quite local, such as a local fibre line being cut by an inadvertent backhoe dig, to dramatically affect your business. For years, many forward-thinking companies have started to use cellular connections as a backup to their main Internet connection to minimize such an event. With the introduction of 4G networks, the speed offered by a wireless connection can equal (or even exceed) the speeds offered by traditional landline services for many customers. As well, with the large push towards accessing key pieces of information via smartphones/tablets, your workers are relying on your main connection more than ever for email, spreadsheets and access to key systems like ERP/CRM. Although the move towards cloud-based services has helped to negate some of these risks, most companies are still reliant on their people accessing key systems, so using a backup on your Internet connection is no longer just a luxury.
Setting up in remote locations
As mentioned, it is great to have a backup on your main Internet connection, but this won't help if you are forced to evacuate all of your people. In this case, many companies may be forced to use alternative locations for their main equipment. If you are a massive corporation, this may be easy to do, as you likely have more than one IT center....but what if you don't? During Hurricane Katrina, many companies were forced to move their businesses to places such as church basements. Since landlines can take weeks install, these businesses often had little or no communication during this time. This event likely started the trend of "LAN backup" more than any other single event.
Companies had two choices in the past.....wait for a landline to be installed in the event of an evacuation or pay a monthly charge for a line that would only be used "just in case". 4G networks have introduced a third alternative. Companies are using 4G technology to allow for a quick setup at a 3rd party location, to get their main IT systems working again. This is also common now for companies who need to get their main connection up before the availability of a landline NOT during times of disaster.
Our friends at Cradlepoint have a great case study covering this (Pandora).
Helping remote workers get to safety
While the majority of this post has focused on items at your main office, we can't forget about your workers out in the field. For them, the term "disaster" can also be expanded to include things such as building collapses. Many companies are using M2M solutions to allow them to better communicate with their remote workers during a time of crisis, even when the worker is unable to speak. Motion based solutions can alert the dispatcher when the worker has not moved in a pre-set amount of time. While this was once technology that was only deployed on first responders, the cost of the technology (combined with legislation in many areas to protect lone workers) has allowed many workers to benefit from this extra level of safety. It is now common place in industries such as Oil/Gas, Forestry, Mining and Utilities.
My thoughts go out to my fellow Albertans during this time of crisis. A shout-out also goes to the many volunteers and first responders who have done a tremendous job in protecting the city during this time of crisis. As business owners, we need to ensure that we do a great job in protecting our team, and also our businesses. Drop me a note, if I can help you find some solutions that help prepare you and your business in the event of a future disaster in your area.
To all of those who had planned on visiting Calgary during the Stampede and were wondering about their visit......Calgary is a city that won't allow a great party to go to waste – we'll be ready!
As always, let Novotech know how we can help with your M2M needs, such as antenna selection. You can visit our web page @ www.novotech.com. As well, feel free to reach out to me directly ....larry(@)novotech.com. You can also follow us on Twitter (@NovotechM2M) and you can follow me personally as well (@LBNovotechM2M).