Friday, August 3, 2007

Can your business survive without petrol?


So, yet another strike and another risk to your business.

It felt like I was in Zimbabwe this morning. I had to queue for Petrol. I'm not saying it is as bad as Zims because the queue was only 5 cars long and there was petrol available when I got my turn. I did put in more than I usually do.

I was lucky because I take LRP; the station I went to had no unleaded.

If you have a large corporation what would you do if 70% of your staff are unable to travel into work every day? Can they work from home? Can your VPN handle the load? Do you know your business well enough to work out who should come in to work, who should dial up or connect over VPN and who should just take a few days off?

If you have a small business can you afford for your staff not to come in and to do their work from home. Can you afford your client/customers not to come visit you? Can you afford not to visit them?

One of the aspects of Information Security is availability and most large companies have a plan for Disasters (note the capital - we are talking floods and earthquakes) but not for small issues like lack of fuel. Most small businesses run on gut feel - they will deal with that bridge when they come to it. The bridge is now here and it is Business Continuity.

The most difficult thing with Business Continuity is that it forces us to take a look at our assumptions. We assume that we can buy petrol whenever we want to get us in to work. We assume that while there we can have access to water, food, toilets, electricity, fairly comfortable working environment (Goldilock's not too hot and not too cold), email, our data, the telephone network, etc, etc. Business Continuity is basically the process of saying "what if something is missing" and anyone can do it. Usually the owner or the business people are the best at doing it because they understand the business and how it works.

It can get a little more complicated when multiple things are not available.This is very likely for many businesses at the moment. If you have no electricity and no diesel for your generator, what can you do? Work from another site where there is electricity, but then chances are you will be using more fuel to get there.

Is it worth making your staff come in later to avoid rush hour in the hopes that their petrol will last longer? The humane aspect also comes into this issue in that if the strike lasts long and petrol is scarce will you let your staff save their petrol for family emergencies?

The strike is 3 days on and the negotiations are happening. Hopefully there will be no issues at all except some minor inconvenience and some bad Zimbabwe comparisons. I will then take off my Chicken Little hat but in the mean time: don't panic but have a plan.
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