When broadband fails: Business continuity
Last week, a firm of mortgage advisers took BT to court for breach of contract relating to an accidental line cut by BT engineers. The company started experiencing problems about ten days earlier when the Internet connection of its London-based office was cut, causing a loss of thousands of pounds which they claim left home owners across London unable to complete their mortgage arrangements.
The County Court granted an emergency injunction ordering BT to re-instate the company's Internet connectivity without delay, despite BT's apparent claim that this was physically impossible. The company is now re-connected to broadband and is pursuing a case for compensation. BT had expressed concerns that this might open the floodgates of similar cases. More information on the case can be found at ISPreview and TheRegister.
This raises an interesting issue about how critical broadband is to business these days. With the increasing use of VoIP platforms and online applications, the quality and availability of broadband is no longer simply a matter of convenience, but critical to the everyday operation of the business. It does however beg the question, what do companies expect for £30-50/month? (There is no indication as to how much the above company spends on connectivity, or whether they have a BT TotalCare service on their line).
If your business was without broadband for a week, how much would it cost you?
If your company uses broadband, you should be asking yourself the question "How much will it cost me if my broadband is down for a week?" If the answer is inconvenience, then most business broadband packages will suit you perfectly. If however your answer can be expressed as a four digit amount (be it in direct costs, lost orders or any other costs), you should be considering how you can mitigate this risk by using multiple technologies, backup sites or other ways to continue working without broadband connectivity.
More importantly, if your business is so reliant on broadband that it wouldn't continue to exist, or you are looking at five-figure losses, then simple business broadband packages are not for you. This is the market that leased lines, Metro Ethernet or combined solutions involving backup technologies such as ISDN are there to fill. Indeed there are different kinds of DSL based services, including the enhanced TotalCare service packages which may all help, but fundamentally you shouldn't rely on a typical business broadband service if it is critical to your business. It may be a cheap solution, but you may regret it.
Companies need to realise what a 'service level agreement' means, and what to expect from their service. If their business relies on fast permanent Internet connectivity to such an extent that they cannot afford to be down for an extended period, they need to take the matter seriously.
Recommendations for businesses:
- Consider adopting multiple technologies (DSL, cable, wireless, etc.)
- Add BT TotalCare to any phone lines where possible to shorten repair time
- Make site-wide contingency arrangements (e.g. multiple/backup sites)
- Select service providers based on your needs, not just on price alone