How Can Your Business Deal With Power Cuts?

In this Opinion piece, Bruce Penson, Managing Director of Pro Drive IT takes a look at the risks of power cuts and how your business can cope with an outage.

You may have seen news reports about potential power cuts this winter if energy supplies run low. The National Grid has said this is unlikely but that ‘short, rolling power cuts were still a possibility’. Read more on the possibility of power cuts here; Blackouts would be last resort, says National Grid – BBC News

So how can you prepare your business for power cuts?

Your computers

  • People cannot work these days without a computer. So you need to consider how they will do this if the power is off.
  • Ensure all staff use laptops and insist they run on power all the time so they’re always charged and ready.
  • Consider keeping some spare laptops charged and available to hand out if you have people still using desktop PCs.
  • Be prepared to be able to relocate people to other locations that may still have power.
  • If you have servers, ensure these are shut down safely in the event of an extended power cut. You should ensure you have tested your uninterrupted power systems to confirm they operate correctly.
  • Even better, if your servers are critical to your business, move them to a datacentre or the cloud now. Datacentres will have the backup power to keep them running if the power goes down.
  • Ensure you have a process in place to check all your IT systems when power returns. IT equipment does not like unplanned power cuts!

Keeping the lights (and your devices on)

  • You are going to be more dependent on laptops, smartphones and mobile WiFi devices should the power go down, so you need to provide ways for your staff to charge them.
  • Anker produce some great portable power products and they make a power bank unit specifically designed to power a laptop (as long as it has a USB-C power connector which most business laptops manufactured in the last 2-3 years do) and one or two smartphones.  These are great devices to provide your staff so they can work at home.
  • If you need more power to run external monitors or even lights, and need to power a device off a 3-pin plug, consider one of Anker’s portable power stations – essentially a big portable battery that can run mains-powered devices.  These could be especially useful to keep in the office so that essential staff can remain operational (in conjunction with a mobile WiFi device).
  • Finally, for those of you lucky enough to have one of the latest generation of electric vehicles, some of them provide a 3-pin mains output – so you can use your car battery to power your electrical devices.

Getting online

  • If the power goes off, it is likely that your internet access will stop as well. We don’t know for sure whether power outages will mean home and office wired internet services will stop (the connections require power to operate so it’s possible).  Even if they continue to operate your routers, network switches and wireless will still require power.
  • If you want to keep your office internet running (assuming this is possible) you will need to power the networking equipment and critical computers. You will need either an uninterrupted power supply (essentially a massive battery) or a generator to do this.
  • Note however that an uninterrupted power supply is not designed to cover the potential 3-hour power outages that have been suggested. Powering IT equipment with a generator is risky as it requires a clean and stable power supply so you will also need a power-filtering device.
  • The mobile phone networks will almost certainly continue to operate in a power outage.  Consider purchasing some mifi 4/5g hotspot devices which run off battery power a create a wireless network your staff can connect laptops too.  Alternatively, you can use your smartphone as a wireless hotspot.

Staying in touch

  • If you still have a traditional office phone system, this will probably stop working when the power goes off.  Even if you have a cloud phone system, your desk phones will likely stop working.
  • If you have a cloud-based phone system you should still be able to keep in touch with your staff and clients.  Most cloud phone systems have a smartphone app that can make and receive your ‘landline’ calls over the mobile networks.  Make sure your staff have it installed and know how to use it.
  • However be prepared that some of your team may not have immediate access to communications tools if their computer no longer works.  Consider having your staff install Teams or Slack on their smartphones (if you use them) or set up an emergency WhatsApp group.

Plan for the worst

  • Even if you are sceptical that power outages will happen, the risk is great enough and potential impact high enough that they should be in your business continuity plan.
  • Ensure before you write your plan that you review the online planning article from UK Power Networks.
  • Make sure you know where your staff are able to work in the event of a power blackout.

Things you should check are:

    • Do they have the equipment to work from home?
    • Do they have a good 4G or 5G mobile network signal?
    • Which ‘load block’ (essentially the power area) on the power grid are they? Not all areas will have blackouts at the same time.
  • Write down how and where you expect your staff to work along with whether they can find the equipment to enable them to do so.  And make sure you share it with them.
  • Finally, ensure you are aware when the blackouts are happening and plan ahead. Current information suggests that the power companies will notify 14 days in advance of planned blackouts but the reality might be different.  The UK Power Network status checker will tell you about in-progress power outages.
About alastair walker 12151 Articles
20 years experience as a journalist and magazine editor. I'm your contact for press releases, events, news and commercial opportunities at Insurance-Edge.Net

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.