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SOHO business continuity tips

Home Base By , Network World
June 06, 2005 12:07 AM ET

Network World - Since starting my own business last year, there have been occasions when I have sorely missed the comfort and safety of a corporate environment. Power outages rank high on the list, whether they last for a half hour or half a day.

A few weeks ago, my town suffered a several-hour outage that made it clear I needed to rethink my business continuity and disaster recovery plan. As a reporter, I’ve covered this area for large enterprises for almost a decade. I’m well aware of the havoc that power outages can wreak on a company that did not account for power outages of any length. Yet, when I was formulating my own business continuity plan, I did not have a contingency in place for this event.

So for three hours on one of the busiest days of my freelance career, I was left literally “in the dark.” Now that it’s over, here are my power outage preparation tips.

1. Make sure your laptop battery is fully charged. I had just been on a business trip and let my battery drain completely on the flight home. I never recharged it, and when I lost power I was without any computing resources.

2. Invest in a back-up power supply. My IT manager friend recommends buying a UPS that lasts 4 hours for around $700. Some houses come equipped with a back-up generator or you can have one installed. Consider whether your business needs this kind of investment – you might be surprised when you answer that even 2 hours is too long to be offline. Also, if you have more than one person working out of your home, this might be a good fit to keep you both up and running.

3. A less-expensive option is to keep extra laptop batteries on hand. Most of you know how long your laptop battery lasts – often times it’s not enough to survive a 3-hour flight. Therefore, if you were to have a power outage that lasted several hours, you’d need several charged batteries. Think about how much downtime you could withstand on the average workday. If that number is less than an hour, make sure you have enough batteries to cover your necessary work hours.
4. Keep an old-fashioned telephone nearby. Many of us spend our days on cordless phones, but they die when the power goes out. While cell phones are fine for a short period, you don’t want to base your business on the spotty service you might receive inside your house. Instead, keep a wired phone somewhere handy that you can plug in during an outage.

5. Keep your laptop in synch with your desktop. If you don’t regularly use your laptop and it’s not part of a desktop docking station, make sure you at least keep the applications in synch. The last thing you want to do is get your laptop booted up only to find that you never installed the application you use most each day or the version you have is out of date.

6. Get a back-up Internet access method. Remember, in a power outage, your high-speed cable connection will be down as well. Again, if you can’t afford to be offline for a period of time (and you have to weigh this carefully), then this is a failsafe cost. My IT manager friend notes that a wireless GSM card would also do the trick, but would cost $50 a month.

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