Hurricanes have pounded Texas, Puerto Rico and the East Coast over the past few months, leaving many people with no power for weeks, or longer.
Over the summer, wildfires devastated the West and East Coasts, and tornado season isn’t even here yet.
Online businesses should have data management, payment processing and security protocols in place to make sure they will stay up and running during a storm.
Disasters seem to be happening more often and — now, more than ever — businesses should be prepared to weather a storm and survive a catastrophic event.
Specifically, online businesses should have data management, payment processing and security protocols in place to make sure they will stay up and running during a storm.
At SegPay, we recently had to face, and survive, Hurricane Irma which hit our South Florida headquarters in early September.
Power was knocked out for days, and thousands of nearby homes and businesses were damaged by wind and flooding. Having lived in a hurricane-prone area for over a decade now, we had the necessary processes in place so that we never missed a beat.
Our company’s continuity plan included 5 key components that helped us stay on top of things, even when we had no choice but to work remotely. Even if you’re not in a hurricane zone, you never know when a disaster may strike. So, to help your business prepare, we’re happy to share this five part plan:
Prepare for the disaster before it happens
Annual strategic planning is key for preparing for a storm. You never know when a hurricane, wildfire or tornado might hit. A storm could severely disrupt your business if you don’t have a plan in place. If you’re an ecommerce company, there’s even more reason for you to make sure you have the proper core processing back-up and disaster recovery strategy ready to execute when the storm comes.
This is why every year our leadership team gathers to think through a disaster before it happens. We modify our plan and procedures based on company-wide changes, including number of employees and new facilities/offices (talk to your property manager about specific facility protocol).
We like to think of this exercise as “pre-mortem” planning — a managerial strategy in which leadership imagines what could go wrong, and then works backward to determine what to do to mitigate these issues should they happen during a disaster.
Make sure you have an employee communications plan in place
It’s important for your employees to know what to do before a disaster hits. Have you sent an official employee communications/crisis plan to your team and walked them through every step?
At SegPay, we have a plan that clearly defines how we will go above and beyond for our team during a disaster — and we walk them through the plan in person. It includes details such as when the offices will close and for how long, what to do with equipment, files, hard drives and personal possessions and details around how employees should be expected to work — or not work — during the storm.
Our plan also includes an “employee checklist” which verifies that everyone is accounted for and prepared for the storm prior to its arrival. Companies should designate a person or team to notify the building supervisor or emergency coordinator when their work area is secure and everyone has evacuated from the building.
We also define what it means when, for example, the state issues a hurricane “watch” versus a “warning,” along with suggested courses of actions under each scenario. Finally, include a company hotline for employees to call when emergency conditions exist to check the status of the company facility (that is, the hours of operation and whether the facility is closed).
Network and data redundancy is key
While our main office is in Florida, key parts of our operations are spread across the U.S. and the world to ensure we continue delivering the payment processing services our customers are counting on, with the least possible disruption during the storm and its aftermath. None of our core processing is located here in Florida.
In fact, servers that control our transactions and reporting are in the northeastern U.S., with a fail over location in the northwest part of the country. That way, our servers are always prepared and backed-up so there’s no disruption should a storm hit.
Customer service redundancy is also crucial
Maintaining redundant customer support centers ensures that customers can reach a person if they have questions even during a disaster.
You need to be fully reachable by your customers 24/7, especially if you are doing business internationally where customers may not be aware of the natural disaster your headquarters has encountered.
Our customer support facilities are in multiple locations throughout the world, including the Philippines and Panama. If a storm hits, our tech support staff is on call throughout the storm.
Not only do we keep customer support lines open at all times, but we also have key people working remote and outside of the hurricane zone so they can be connected to the systems and clients during the disaster.
Finally, we like to keep our website and blog updated to make sure our clients and customers are always informed of our disaster recovery processes.
After the storm, ensure you have a plan to get everyone back to work
Don’t forget to think through the post-disaster protocol. When will employees be expected to be back in the office? How will they stay up-to-date with company-wide communications and updates? Inform your employees on how you will communicate with them during the storm so they always know what’s expected.
Make sure you communicate the procedures affecting employees with special circumstances (e.g. their home is damaged from the storm, etc.). There may be extraneous circumstances that some employees won’t be able to avoid, and it’s important to think through those circumstances.
Due to SegPay’s location here in South Florida, it’s especially important that we have an up-to-date plan and are prepared for a potential natural disaster. Of course, we all hope we never have to use these suggestions, but recent events show how important it is to be prepared just in case.
It took only three years for Cathy Beardsley to turn startup SegPay into a profitable company. As president and CEO, Beardsley oversees the day-to-day operations and long-term strategic planning for the company. SegPay is one of four companies approved by Visa USA to operate as a high-risk internet payment service provider in the U.S. Since 2005, SegPay has offered online merchants a state-of-the-art billing platform that provides realtime payment processing around the globe.