4 ways to maintain business continuity during a natural disaster

May 09, 2024 Arthur Nichols 5 min


Natural disasters often strike with little to no warning. Yet their operational and economic impact to organizations can end up being catastrophic. Proper prevention starts with effective business continuity and weeding out legacy solutions that no longer serve your organization.

Trillions. With a capital T.

$2.6 Trillion: The total approximate cost of weather and climate disasters in the U.S. recorded between 1980 and 2023, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). ). The average annual number of weather and climate disasters continues to trend upwards with scientists confirming that the impact extreme weather has on businesses is nothing short of catastrophic.

Merriam-Webster defines a catastrophe as, “a momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin.” When thinking about the latest natural disasters—torrential flooding in the south, blazing wildfires in the west, and hurricanes destroying everything across the lower east states. 78% of Americans polled by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reported being personally affect by extreme weather events in recent years. That is more than three out of four individuals—which is why businesses would be wise to ask themselves, do we have an effective business continuity plan in place to combat the increasing risks of an unplanned event?

In this very digital and connected world, organizations do not have the luxury of ignoring unexpected and uncontrollable occurrences that lead to the loss of critical services such as power and communications. These unplanned events go beyond natural disasters to also factor in malicious attacks by an outside party or even the reality of human error from within the company. Whatever the threat is to business continuity, the effects are typically all the same: Increased downtime, limited bandwidth, and network issues that chip away at employee productivity and collaboration, customer experience and ultimately impact a business’ bottom line.

So, what to do? You can’t stop floods from rolling in or earthquakes from shaking the literal ground beneath your feet. But what you do have is the power to undertake proper and preventive business continuity planning to efficiently protect your data, systems, customers and employees—while keeping the business operational at all times.

It all starts with a plan.

Think of business continuity as much more than a backup plan—consider it a roadmap for restoration and a plan of action for your essential business functions. It should be continuously revisited and altered just as your organization and surrounding business environment continues to evolve, in order to offer resiliency against unplanned events.

But business continuity planning goes beyond setting a series of protocols to ensure that operations can continue even during the most disruptive of events—it is also about revisiting the technology and services used by your organization. With the right IT foundation in place, disaster is much less likely to strike. Here are four areas of your infrastructure you should review in part of building out your business continuity plan:

  1. Migrate away from a legacy network infrastructure.
    Today’s landscape, a time synonymous with climate uncertainty, requires modern-day connectivity options that support the growing demand for cloud-based apps, achieve business continuity and avoid the risk of downtime and lost productivity. Yet many organizations still rely on outdated legacy access technologies that inhibit these goals—and come with limited features, an expensive price tag and overall obsolescence. If you are still using these services, there’s no better time than the present to start exploring cloud-enabled connectivity solutions, like SD-WAN, within your existing IT infrastructure to support the growing demand for cloud-based apps, achieve business continuity and keep your business running at full speed.

  2. Communicate through disaster with the right collaboration tools.
    It is also important to access your communications options across your organization that are used both internally and externally. In the wake of a storm, when connectivity is threatened, how can your customers contact you? What about your employees? Maintaining communications across multiple channels is especially important during and after a natural disaster, not only for customer experience and support, but also to maintain employee productivity. Unified communications platforms enable seamless collaboration from any device, over multiple channels all at once (voice, video, SMS, etc.). A cloud-native contact center nicely complements a UC platform’s capabilities by providing an essential lifeline between businesses to its customers during severe weather events and other inopportune disruptions.

  3. Deter sophisticated cyberthreats during heightened vulnerability.
    Because natural disasters often result in power outages and network interruptions, cybercriminals often will see this as an opportunity to strike. Think about it: Severe weather is announced on the news, and everyone breaks into a panic. And during/ post disasters, it’s proven that cyber-thieves increase their attacks significantly by targeting vulnerable businesses and individuals and capitalizing on the chaos. Good news is, with the rise of multi-layered, cloud-based security solutions, like Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) and Security Service Edge (SSE), robust protection is not only possible but practical. By consolidating multiple security functions into one unified cloud-based service, businesses can manage these solutions better than they could within traditional security models, allowing them protect themselves more efficiently against a greater variety of security threats.

  4. Add a first responders to your team.
    When disaster strikes, the last thing you want to worry about is whether your network and applications are down, and how to get everything up and running as quickly as possible. With a managed services partner like Windstream Enterprise, you can leave troubleshooting to a dedicated team of experts, freeing people within your IT organization to address all the other ongoing priorities. They also have far less capital expense and exposure to loss of technology investments in storm ravaged locations. And outside of unplanned events, you can trust this team to seamlessly manage your network security, unified communications platforms, contact centers and additional as-a-service solutions.

Stay protected and connected from forces against your control.

At Windstream Enterprise, we believe in taking preventative measures over remedial efforts. By implementing modern networking, communications and security technology to support 24/7 business continuity—and by building a comprehensive, integrated disaster plan around those modern solutions—any business can stay up and running even when faced with Mother Nature’s worst. This methodology applies to any business; from retailer to, financial institution to healthcare organization.

A better forecast ahead.

One of our customers, Gaubert Oil, is no stranger to weathering the storm. Located smack dab in the middle of “hurricane alley,” this oil and lubricant distributor has been living under the constant threat of natural disasters ever since 1926. Having dealt with halted operations due to single-threaded MPLS network and an outdated on-premises phone system. By transitioning to a strong, secure and reliable network with SD-WAN and cloud-based unified communications with OfficeSuite UC®, Gaulbert Oil no longer worries about outages and downtime—rather, they are prioritizing the products and services they provide to their customers.

Stephen Robert, responsible for IT at Gaubert Oil, said that “selecting Windstream Enterprise for network, security and voice services was an easy choice. As a long-term managed services provider, they had helped us stay in business in the aftermath of two major hurricanes.” You can read more about their experience migrating to modern solutions from Windstream Enterprise here.

Learn more

Key Takeaway
Are you leveraging the calm before the storm? Organizations that proactively create a business continuity plan give themselves a better chance of weathering the storm, whenever and wherever it arrives.

From reactive to proactive: Ensure physical and digital business continuity