How do you run your business during a disaster?


Jason Clark
Jason Clark

on 2/2/2009

Here at VIA Studio, we use quite a few tools that I’ve come to realize that we take for granted. With the windstorm of a couple months ago and the more recent ice storm taking power out of both homes and businesses around our region I’ve realized that a majority of businesses have not taken advantage of these tools.

Here’s a story. Last week one of our clients had an emergency where the power was down at the office and they desperately needed to communicate with their constituents. They were not able to do this because their email lists were in Microsoft Outlook on one of the machines at their office. They had to physically bring the computer down to our office and connect to our network in order to send out these communications. This took probably 4 or more hours out of the day for them.

If the client’s email and contacts had lived in Google Apps for Small Business, they would have been able to accomplish the exact same task from the comfort of their own home or even Blackberry in a matter of minutes.

Simply put, we live in a paradigm of “cloud computing“, which means that information can now be untethered to a physical location. With the right amount of security precaution, most of the information that you need to run your business can live on secure web servers, and business communication can happen from anywhere in the world.

Here are a few simple tasks that will help you save time and work from anywhere:

Fire Microsoft

Microsoft Office products require you to be on a specific computer to work on documents. If you want to work on them at home, you have to either take the document home on a drive or email it to yourself. If those documents lived in Google Apps they would be accessible anywhere, and you could even share those documents with your constituents. I can’t stress how valuable having your email available anywhere (without the cost of an Exchange server) can be. Microsoft will probably catch up soon with apps in the cloud, but there are mature products out there now for free.

Send invoices with no hands

We use a billing system called Freshbooks to send out invoices to clients. It’s not as robust as Quickbooks, but for a small business it’s been invaluable. We used to spend a couple days every quarter sending out hosting invoices from Quickbooks. Now that’s done automatically every quarter with no effort of our own. Overdue notices go out automatically. No more harassing clients, it’s done for you! Freshbooks even sends out snail mail invoices if you wish, and accepts Paypal and whatever credit cards your Payment Gateway accepts.

Boss people around from home

Basecamp takes care of most of our Project Management needs. We can communicate with clients, share files, create to-do lists, and more from anywhere.

There are quite a few other tools that we use that allow us to work from anywhere if the need arises. I’m definitely not a fan of virtualization or outsourcing. I think nothing is more valuable than working with a team that knows each other well. But it’s very nice to know that I can spend an entirely productive day away from the office, or get something done from home at night without going back in to look for an email or a document I left behind.

If the Snowpocalypse hits again, we’ll be ready. Will you?

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