Remember how difficult life could be before the internet? Well, imagine it today, with the knowledge and access we now have! Consider how your business would be affected if your ISP experienced a protracted outage, and all the challenges you’d face performing even mundane daily operations. From cloud-hosted software packages to internet communications tools, our laptops and tablets rely heavily on 24/7 broadband connections.
It might be tempting to assume that you’ll never experience an outage, in the same way some people disregard the risks of data theft or viruses. However, modern businesses frequently find themselves stranded on the information superhighway’s hard shoulder for the following reasons:
- Upgrading works. Although broadband works should be undertaken without harming the native infrastructure, that’s not always the case. Planned engineering works are a leading cause of temporary outages. These are usually short-lived, but that’s scant consolation if they prevent you filing an invoice or responding to a sales lead.
- Switching from one ISP to another. Despite glossy literature promising a seamless switchover, there can be void periods between one broadband connection ending and another being activated. Some providers are notorious for last-minute delays, such as if the ISP doesn’t recognise a new building’s address or an engineer is unavailable.
- Network faults. From broken fibre cables to security breaches, ISPs use surprisingly fragile hardware to pipe user data. All the major providers have suffered significant outages this year, mainly caused by equipment failures. Last year, a faulty BT router in London took down connections across the UK.
- Defective hardware. Smaller users reliant on a wireless hub have to appreciate that these sealed plastic units occasionally fail. Symptoms may include constant rebooting, dwindling access speeds, intermittent Wi-Fi and error messages. A hardwired device could have a faulty Ethernet cable, while computers and tablets can also be to blame.
- Viruses and malware. Viruses disable routers in the same way DDoS attacks force servers offline. Last month, a single piece of malware breached network firewalls and disabled 60,000 modems from one of India’s leading ISPs. If a reboot doesn’t cure the problem, new hardware may need to be ordered – potentially taking weeks to arrive.
If customer-facing resources like websites and email accounts are hosted by UK2.net, customers may not realise your company is experiencing connection issues. That prevents reputational damage being caused, at least in the short term. However, other communications tools will be unavailable unless you’ve got a workaround waiting in the wings.
Here are four ways to remain operational without a functioning broadband connection:
- Switch to 4G. Smartphones and tablets are generally configured to piggyback onto Wi-Fi networks, dropping onto 4G in the absence of hubs or routers. And while laptops and desktops rarely have mobile connectivity built in, it can easily be added with a wireless dongle. These are sold by the major mobile networks, with pre-loaded data allowances and the ability to connect to a proprietary webpage for credit and debit card top-ups.
It’s important to note that this is a relatively expensive and sluggish method of communication compared to modern broadband. It’s also easy to use up several gigabytes of data in a single day if you’re heavily invested in cloud-hosted services like Skype or Adobe Creative Cloud. Nevertheless, a desktop dongle and mobile Wi-Fi connection can support critical services like email and Slack.
- Relocate your staff. This is clearly impractical for a single-site call centre with a hundred workers logging into bespoke software portals. However, if a company has a satellite office, consider relocating key personnel for the duration of broadband connection issues. Careful decisions have to be made about resource allocation, so carry out this assessment carefully.
For sole traders and entrepreneurs, a domestic outage may mean migrating to a coffee shop or internet café. Some people try to work offline in the morning, saving internet-based tasks for an afternoon spent in a location with a stable connection. Even if key documents are stored on the C drive of a hardwired desktop PC, it’s easy to save them onto a data key or CD-ROM for offsite access with a laptop or guest computer.
- Create a Mi-Fi network. Mi-Fi is the cellular equivalent of a broadband hub. Each compact white lozenge harnesses a single 4G connection to distribute a signal across a local area. This allows a Mi-Fi router to provide internet access to as many as ten different devices at once, including tablets and laptops – ideal for small teams.
One merit of a Mi-Fi network is it maintains connectivity for devices that otherwise wouldn’t accept a dongle or SIM card, like printers and games consoles. The hotspot can be moved anywhere it receives a 4G signal, and devices connect to the router wirelessly. Some Mi-Fis have microSD card slots, enabling them to double as file storage devices.
- Join other people’s accounts. The UK has several major telco (or telecommunications) players, so people in adjacent offices or neighbouring houses might have different suppliers. Some people will understandably refuse to share their account details, but others will be more sympathetic if they’ve experienced the horror of a red X across Windows taskbars. They may also require assistance at some point, and one good turn deserves another.
If your staff are office based, consider allowing them to work from home. They’ll appreciate the novelty, as well as being able to keep busy and honour client commitments. If the problem relates to a domestic connection, friends and relatives might have spare workspace you can decamp to – with the added benefit of free tea.
It’s worth noting that internet connectivity should become more reliable with every passing year. The always-on nature of 5G will dovetail with greater network availability to render broadband increasingly superfluous. Meanwhile, modern fibre cables are harder to damage or kink than traditional copper cabling, and greater competition among ISPs is slowly driving up standards. There’s no need to abandon cloud-hosted programs and networks, but we strongly recommend having a backup connection method in place in case of an emergency…