Small business using EFTPOS machineTelstra's major mobile network failure this week reminds us just how important it is to have a backup plan for our telecommunications.

As we rely more heavily on telecommunications to do business, it is important to develop a Business Continuity Plan for future loss of services. You need a plan for all your services: mobile, landline, broadband and any systems that rely on telecommunications networks such as EFTPOS terminals and security monitoring. You could be faced with a complete telecommunications outage from a natural disaster or another partial outage like the Telstra one that we experienced on 9 February, 2016.

Be prepared! Make a short list of critical business activities that would be affected by such an outage. Decide in advance how critical these activities are to your business – this will help you to decide how much you would be prepared to spend on alternative means of communications, such as a mobile phone with a different provider.

You should also perform a Risk Assessment – how likely is it that a particular type of event will occur? If it's low, say once every five years, but the impact is very high, for example you lose $15,000 worth of productivity like one case cited in the news, then you know how much you could spend over the intervening months to avoid the worst consequences of an outage.

Using this week's Telstra outage as an example, a mobile small business using credit card facilities, a mobile phone for booking jobs and ordering materials and relying on online maps for directions between jobs might plan to:

  • Keep a paper based slider machine or some 'authorisation for payment' forms in their vehicle.
  • Use a SMS broadcast, their website, email or social media to let their customers know their alternative contact details.
  • Have half of the staff's phones provided by one mobile phone provider and the rest by another one.
  • Keep a prepaid phone with a different provider.
  • Keep a street directory in their vehicle.

The important thing is to have a plan. It might be that after doing your risk assessment you decide you don't need to, or can't afford to do anything, but at least you decide that from a position of having thought about it in advance.

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