Superstorm Sandy changed a lot, both in terms of the damage it did, but also the lessons it provided for many businesses around the tri-state area and beyond. One of the largest, yet-to-be fully quantified victims of the storm, beyond the terrible human cost, was the loss of billions of dollars of revenues from thousands of companies, both in New York but all over the world, who the storm severely interrupted and in some cases is still affecting.
But looking back on the events of the storm and its aftermath, it’s hard not to see some very easy solutions to at least the business continuity aspects of the storm’s impact. Cloud computing, while not a cure all is a cost effective and increasingly simple approach to helping companies change the way they do business in terms of where there workforce is, accessibility and consistency of work and agility. This is increasingly true, especially in the light of increased mobility in how the work force operates, both in terms of the devices employees use but also where in the world they are doing work.
One of the key benefits of integrating cloud into your workforce is the distribution of documents and materials. When many businesses lost the office during Sandy, cloud-enabled companies with applications and tools in the cloud, like Sharepoint, internal Wikis etc. were able to continue to work by leveraging their IT infrastructure to distribute applications, documents and most importantly, access.
Many businesses, as well as the cloud providers themselves, have practices developed around making applications and data highly available, both a standard process as well as in the case of emergencies. This enables the impact to the business, even without the office being available due to the storm, to be minimal. Yes, desks and main computer terminals were unavailable, as were the documents locally stored on employee computers – there is a degree of inevitability to disasters that can’t account for every piece of information an employee will need. However, for these cloud-enabled businesses, work continued relatively normally, just distributed and remote from the office itself. Workforces were able to be on the same page through communication accessibility, as well as enjoy access to the same materials – in other words they could function as a cohesive company.
Businesses can really leverage the cloud, enabling them to develop similar practices as the cloud providers themselves. But increasingly, situations like Sandy highlight the importance of service clouds, i.e. providers of documents like Dropbox for file sharing, providers of customer management like Salesforce, or collaboration tools like Google docs or Sharepoint. There are also tools like Basecamp and Github, enabling different types of collaborative processes for different groups in the organization to continue without physically being at work.
At the business level, all these tools are amazing for helping a workforce do business remotely, in the case of a disaster etc. But from a pragmatic perspective, this won’t engender a dramatic shift away from the office altogether. From a psychological perspective, people function better in teams. Employees are a lot more efficient in the office, with greater cohesion in their ability to complete work. Every so often, you will have those days that you work from home and get a lot done outside of the distractions of the office, but this will still be the exception, not the rule.
From a mobile perspective, all these cloud tools are consumable not just from a desktop or laptop, but from your mobile devices, smartphones, tablets etc., as well. It’s important to have access to the tools, documents and communication on the road, from home, or from a hotel. Outside of storm situations, say you have a sales person onsite, at a client meeting, but they don’t have notes from previous meetings with the same client. If your sales person has a smart phone and a cloud-enabled document sharing system, they have an easy way to find notes. This is a powerful way to approach doing business. Cloud is quickly replacing the way we store and process information. Instead of having to remember it, we store it and we can be relatively sure that its safe, and more importantly accessible from anywhere.
By Jake Gardner