The festive shopping season, which includes the all-important January sales, is when the hustle and bustle returns to both the virtual and physical high streets, irrespective of how well stores have performed throughout the rest of the year. It’s the most important season for retailers and their businesses and as a result, anything that could pull the plug on their ability to function could be catastrophic.
Your critical IT systems, which could include your online store, supply chain management and payment portal shouldn’t come screeching to a halt even if a fault does occur. Unfortunately, as some high profile stores have proved, downtime does occur to those who aren’t adequately prepared.
Research from the Ad Council shows that 62 percent of small businesses lack an emergency plan. Meanwhile, Symantec figures reveal that companies in the retail sector with over 1000 employees lose over £600,000 every hour, as a result of data center outages. Those without a plan should move quickly to safeguard their business and protect it from the damaging effects of outage. The worrying category is the group of businesses that although have plans in place, their plans simply aren’t effective enough to keep businesses up and running when their systems fail.
With retailers making the majority of their profits in the Christmas season, it really is imperative that firms get a handle on their business continuity and establishing frameworks that will keep them online throughout the year.
The first step of business continuity planning is to develop a business impact analysis. This process allows you to take stock of all the applications your company uses. You may find applications that you don’t know a lot about. And even your well known critical applications that you do know intricately like those that allow your business to make transactions or the all-important CRM system, may be dependent on little-known applications or network services.
What you want to identify is which of your IT applications are the most critical to your business and what the financial cost to the company would be if that application were to become unavailable. Ensure that you spend adequate time on the business impact analysis – your business continuity will only be successful if the right applications are protected.
Business continuity is a vital area of a business and is as important as business insurance. You should therefore work with a trusted managed service partner to help with business continuity specifics – for example where to safeguard backups or optimal locations for application failover. You will need the comprehensive protection that extends beyond just remote backup storage. Such a partner will be familiar with the multifaceted nature of retail and be trustworthy in providing the reliable infrastructure and multiplatform storage management needed for sensitive data.
Test, test, test
A business continuity plan is essential but can be rendered useless if it hasn’t been shown to be effective. And without adequate testing, the only time you’ll know your plan isn’t up to scratch is when a disaster arrives. And if that disaster arrives at a time that could prevent shoppers from buying their Christmas gifts, it doesn’t really bear thinking about.
Testing procedures should be comprehensive but often don’t take place because of the time and resources involved. A sensible business continuity solution would be one that can perform automated testing. Such a solution can simulate a variety of failure scenarios without the risk of causing downtime while testing.
Many workers in the industry will already be accustomed to the use of mobile devices in warehousing and the supply chain but it is now being rolled out much further for everything including point of sale and administrative functions. From a business continuity standpoint, the use of mobile devices can be powerful. For instance, for office based support staff that suddenly lose power in the building, they can continue to work from home.
Sales staff on the other hand need the flexibility of being able to conduct sales more easily on the go. An advantage is that they can carry out business wherever they are and even if the power goes down at HQ, they can carry on with their business regardless.
However, the introduction of mobility also introduces a number of different devices, operating systems and platforms that must be incorporated into the business continuity plan. Get this right and all staff, whether they are on the shop floor, in the store room or in the field, will always have access to their services as long as they can find sufficient power and a reliable internet connection.