[Credit: Greg Henshall, FEMA Photo Library]
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How Virtual Meetings Can Play a Role in Disaster Recovery

  • By PGi

Recent years have seen severe weather events make a tremendous impact on business owners, resulting in lost and delayed sales, increased expenses for repair work, and the delayed resumption of normal business activity. Such events have only reinforced the need for a documented disaster recovery plan for your business.

Every day that a disaster puts the average small business or midsize company offline and out of office costs big—a median cost of $12,500 per day, according to a survey by the software company Symantec.

Downtime, in which employees are out of the office and business is suspended, is certainly part of that cost. And while it is an often-overlooked aspect of disaster recovery, it is a circumstance that can be remedied using responsible telecommuting policies (even if those policies are only activated in times of need) and new business collaboration tools designed to keep your workers working anytime, anywhere, and even during extreme weather conditions, if needed.

How virtual meetings can enable connectivity during a disaster

Virtual meetings are one such tool. Virtual meeting software and collaboration tools like video conferencing and web conferencing go even further than cloud-based email and file storage (which can also be helpful as part of a disaster recovery plan). They enable real-time, face-to-face communication with anyone, not just those inside the company’s firewall, enabling businesses to remain connected with customers, vendors, partners and prospects during a disaster.

What to look for in a virtual meeting provider

The right virtual meeting software can go even further to enable your workforce to work outside the office with just a charged laptop (or other mobile device) and Internet connectivity. Here are some pointers on what to look for:

  • Multiple audio options: They allow users to connect in multiple ways, including manual dial-out toll and toll-free numbers, automatic “call me” features that ring cellphones or land lines directly, and, should the phone lines be down, integrated audio-over-computer options known as VOIP, or voice over internet protocol.
  • Integrated file storage: Cloud storage within the software can offer protection against document loss, and it can also enable workers to get contracts signed, share quotes and collaborate on projects even if they can’t access your database.
  • Multi-device access: With options to host and join virtual meetings on laptops, desktop, standard phones, mobile phones and even using smartphone/tablet apps, workers can connect using the technology they might have handy—not just the technology at the office or in a conference room.
  • Simplicity: During times of hardship, keeping it simple is often the wisest choice. Choose a virtual meeting software that is simple to access and use (no downloads, one-click log-in, consistent URL are recommended).
  • Business continuity: Global providers, like PGi, have redundant, always-on networks and facilities all over the world. By implementing a business continuity plan with redundant infrastructure in globally dispersed locations, virtual meetings providers can keep users up and running even if the local network was negatively impacted by the disaster.

What security features you should expect 

Security is a consideration all its own; it is incredibly important when enabling work outside the office, especially in a time of disaster. Make sure to choose a virtual meetings solution that protects your company’s data, with such security protocols as:

  • Firewalls. Look for firewalls that are “rules-based,” which means the administrator can allow or deny traffic based on specific criteria. It offers better protection against hacking attempts.
  • SSL certificates. All web interfaces and components should be hosted on secure servers with SSL certificates, an industry standard for encrypting information over the Internet.
  • Transport Layer Security (TLS). A privacy layer that helps prevent eavesdropping or tampering.
  • Multiple Internet service provider (ISP) connections. The service can remain operable if connection to a primary Internet service provider is down
  • Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS). This should be used at both the network and system levels to monitor and prevent unwanted activity.
  • Internal and external virus protection and network scans. Virus protection should be installed on all systems and vulnerability scans should be performed routinely by both the provider and a qualified third party. Any vulnerability should be analyzed and re-mediated.

With only an Internet connection and a battery-powered mobile device, smart businesses can implement virtual meetings solutions that can keep crucial operations stable during a disaster. By choosing secure virtual meetings technology and smart telecommuting policies, disaster recovery management can keep businesses up and running—even when the office is offline.

Blakely Thomas-Aguilar began her career as a technology expert at one of the world’s largest technology companies before settling into her true passion of content creation, collaboration and business education. She lives in Atlanta, GA, with her husband and three children. She contributes to the content strategy initiatives of PGi, a global leader in virtual meetings.

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