The UK’s electricity operator, the National Grid, has warned of the possibility of national blackouts this winter

Addressing the issue of supply interruption in its Winter Outlook report, the operator said that although ‘unlikely’, there was a possibility it may have to introduce three-hour blackouts on ‘really, really cold’ winter weekdays to ensure the UK grid could cope with demand. And while there has been much talk about the impact of potential blackouts on families and households, there has been little mention of the impact on businesses. Recent polls suggest 80% of businesses aren’t doing anything to prepare for the possibility of winter blackouts, but even power cuts we know are coming require some business planning.

Why do you need to be prepared?

In the digital age, there’s not much that goes on within businesses that doesn’t require electricity. If your organisation has a business continuity plan in place, you’ll know all about the areas and functions of your business that could be impacted by an outage. But even if you don’t, it’s not hard to think about everything that needs to be plugged in and switched on in order for your business to run. This could include:

  • IT systems
  • Payment terminals
  • Door access
  • Lifts
  • Manufacturing production lines
  • Telephony
  • Machines
  • Refrigeration units

And then there is the issue of lighting. Faced by the prospect of planned blackouts with barely a day’s notice, businesses need to give careful thought to contingency planning, and to identify the steps they can take to minimise disruption.

How blackouts could impact UK business IT systems

These days, even the smallest of businesses are reliant on technology. Everything from sales and communication to data storage and vendor management requires good connectivity and the right technology, and failing to properly prepare for a blackout can cause some serious problems.

  • Lost revenue: During a blackout, your website may go down. If you sell things online, this is obviously going to affect your customers’ ability to buy anything from you. This can impact not only your bottom line, but the way your customers feel about buying from you in the future. Reputational damage can have a long-term effect on your revenue
  • Supply chain failures: Businesses rely on other businesses to get things done, and the knock-on effect of one failing to prepare for a blackout can have consequences further down the chain. If you can’t provide what your partners need, even for a short time, will they still be able to provide to others? If they can’t, how will they feel about working with you in the future?
  • Customer service issues: With many businesses in the process of switching to VoIP telephony systems, most customer service teams and channels rely solely on digital technology. A blackout could easily take out every way your customers have of getting in touch with you
  • Damaged equipment: If your business fails to prepare equipment properly by shutting everything down (or switching to a backup generator) before the blackout, the power surge when the electricity comes back on could cause significant and costly damage
  • Data loss or corruption: Power outages are one of the primary causes of business data loss. Operating systems need to be shut down properly in order to perform all the processes necessary to preserve the integrity of data, systems and files, so any power loss has the potential to corrupt, lose or damage data files that are open at the time of the blackout
  • Reduced productivity: With so many people continuing to work from home, it’s not only your business premises you need to consider when it comes to blackouts. If teams can’t use their home computers, they can’t do their jobs, and that means reduced productivity and lost revenue

With so much that could be impacted, it’s worth ensuring you have a robust data backup plan in place, and a reliable disaster recovery solution on standby.

How to support business teams through possible UK winter blackouts

With many UK businesses still operating remote or hybrid working models, it’s important to have a plan in place for keeping teams connected through any winter blackouts. Teams that rely largely on electronic communication and collaboration may struggle to work effectively – if at all – during these periods, so you might want to consider:

  • Adjusting working times or opening hours to avoid any planned blackouts. Suggestions are that blackouts would last for three hours from 4pm to 7pm, so could you consider opening an hour earlier so that you can be safely closed by 4pm?
  • Educating teams about how to use their mobile phones to tether their internet connection, assuming the mobile phone network hasn’t been affected by the blackout
  • Asking teams to make sure they keep all their devices fully charged, whether they are working from home or at the office, especially if you know a blackout is planned for that afternoon
  • Encouraging teams that are required to work during the hours of the planned blackout to plan their workloads ahead, so they can complete tasks offline during that time. This could include printing documents or files, or moving files offline to be worked on locally. Although be careful around data, and ensure if any data is moved it is securely protected
  • Planning an alternative office space, in a different location, to counter the impact of a localised blackout in the area where your business premises is
  • Inviting those working remotely in the area of a planned blackout to come into the office instead

How to prepare your business for possible winter blackouts

For some businesses, the most workable solution for weathering the potential of winter blackouts will be to close shop earlier than normal on those days, and make sure all their computers and systems are shut down. For others that need to remain operational, it will be essential to plan for everything from alternative power supplies to IT server resiliency and data backup and recovery. Some solutions to consider include:

  • Investing in a back-up generator to power essential equipment and critical facilities through any potential blackouts
  • Installing an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) device to protect devices and data in the event of power being cut unexpectedly
  • Diversifying IT servers and critical infrastructure to ensure resilience during possible localised blackouts
  • Educating teams to ensure everyone knows what is expected of them, and what the business is doing for them, to prepare for any winter blackouts
  • Investing more heavily in cloud-based solutions and services to ensure access to business-critical data and functions at all times

How M247 can help your business weather potential UK winter blackouts

For most businesses, IT servers and technology resilience will be a big component of preparing for the potential of winter blackouts. At M247, we offer a range of diverse and resilient solutions and services to stand you in the best possible stead for what might be a tricky season for energy supplies. Our solutions include:

  • Connectivity: Fast, reliable and diversified connectivity options to keep your teams connected and collaborating if your primary connections are switched off. Our global network of transit and exchange points ensures your business has access to multiple failover lines for true connectivity resilience
  • Server security: State-of the-art global network of data centres, dedicated to the security of business-critical hardware
  • Infrastructure, backup and cloud: Diverse solutions across private, public and hybrid services to ensure your critical infrastructure, data and applications are always switched on and always accessible
  • Communications: Cloud-based solutions including Hosted Telephony and Unified Communications to keep your teams talking
  • Data security: Complete protection and peace of mind for your data and data strategy, with cost-effective Data Management- and Backup as a Service options
  • Recovery: If the worst should happen, our Disaster Recovery as a Service solution provides full system and application replication to get you back up and running as quickly as possible

Need help preparing your business for potential winter blackouts? Our team of technical experts can help with everything from a full technical audit to providing a bespoke suite of solutions and services to keep your business running, even when the lights go out. Get in touch with our team today.

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