Load shedding is set to be part of our lives in South Africa for the foreseeable future, bringing with it inconvenience and expense for all citizens, not to mention the business landscape.
While the digital environment we operate in and rely on brings with it significant benefits for doing business, without power it can be quite the stumbling block. And while big businesses may be able to absorb the costs of generators to keep operations up and running, small and medium sized businesses can find themselves in a more vulnerable position, with some resorting to shutting down until the power is back up.
However, making use of the tools at our disposal in the digital age can mean the difference between staying connected and being cut off when the lights go out.
In the age of mobility and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), it’s commonplace for employees to make use of their own devices and to work wherever, whenever.
While big businesses may have the budgets to be more mobile ready, it pays SMBs to embrace this trend. Portable devices like laptops and tablets don’t have to cost the earth, and mean employees can keep working as long as their devices’ battery life allows. Investing in a cloud productivity service like Office 365 means they can access Office across their devices, wherever they can connect to the internet – perhaps there’s a coffee shop with power down the road ideally suited to a productive few hours of work while the lights are out at the office.
Of course, when working with portable devices, it pays to invest in devices with long battery life, such as Lenovo’s Yoga range, which boast up to 18 hours between charges, and to maintain the battery for optimal performance. It’s also essential to have an outlet to charge the devices, whether this is a UPS or even portable power packs that can charge a device on the go.
If we’re considering a more portable way of life when it comes to devices in the workplace, then it makes just as much sense to untether from ‘traditional’ internet connectivity. While the majority of South African small businesses use ADSL to connect to the internet (World Wide Worx SME Survey 2015), this only works when the power is on. The solution here is to consider mobile data, which can allow employees to continue working on their mobile devices or even create a mobile hotspot to stay connected.
Working in the cloud
We’ve already mentioned the benefits of Office 365 as a means of accessing Office from anywhere. Taking this a step forward, investing in public cloud computing like Microsoft Azure means businesses can run their servers in the cloud, housing all company email, documents and applications offsite. Aside from saving money on expensive infrastructure that many small businesses can ill afford, the benefit of going this route is that when the lights go out, productivity doesn’t have to come to a halt. The combination of having staff using mobile devices, equipped with mobile data and still able to access their emails and important documents is essential for small businesses to ensure that load shedding doesn’t become a deal breaker.
The power of the battery
There are certain office functions that cannot be housed in the cloud or moved to a mobile device. One such function is printing. Battery operated multi-function printers offer a great solution, allowing for businesses to print, scan, fax and copy without having to find the nearest printing shop and rack up unnecessary expenses. Ricoh’s SG3120B SFNw printer is a great example, as it can operate on external power for day-to-day use, and automatically switches to battery power in the case of a power cut.
Keeping business going
When we hear the words ‘load shedding’, most of us immediately worry about loss of productivity, data and business. Technology can be a stumbling block if we rely on plugging in to stay connected. However, by altering the way we work in the digital age, not only can we stay connected in the face of load shedding, but we can actually save money and improve productivity in the long run. Finding solutions that promote employees working anywhere, anytime; moving to the cloud; and investing in the right technology can be the difference between fading into the dark or shining as a successful business – regardless of size.
* Elaine Wang, Group Microsoft Business Unit Manager, Rectron.