Posts

COVID-19 Survey: Revenue Losses and Diminishing Cash Reserves

In a national survey of more than 2400 businesses conducted and published by American City Business Journals finds that small and midsize businesses are seeing severe impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Impacts: Profits, Revenue, Cash, and Survivability

About 69% of respondents have seen revenue decline since the major onset of COVID-19 in March 2020.  Of those seeing revenue decline, close to half see revenue falling by 50% or more year over year.

Additionally, 47% indicate that they have not been profitable and nearly one third report being cash flow negative over the first six months of the pandemic. About 70% of those losing money are losing more than $10,000 per month and 64% will run out of funds within the five months.

About 40% of respondents raised cash through loans or equity investments since March 1, with 91% of these businesses receiving loans from a federal stimulus program, such as the Paycheck Protection Program. These funds were predominantly used to cover payroll and operating expenses as opposed to funding investment or growth.

Change in Focus

With the stark financial impacts, most smaller businesses are changing their focus. Rather than looking forward one to three years, most SMBs are focuses on the current and next quarter. The shift from strategic to tactical is a direct response to the many unknowns of the pandemic, the near-term economy, business sector and market impacts, and government recovery and stimulus plans.

The near-term focus makes sense as we look to minimize costs, conserve cash, and ensure profits and our sustainability.

Where IT Services Can Help

Leveraging the right IT services can help you prepare and react to changes as you navigate the on-going unknowns.  Here are 5 ideas to consider.

Audit your IT services for redundant services.
  • Most businesses find they are paying for multiple services with redundant or overlapping capabilities.
  • In many instances, we see businesses paying for third party services that are available for no additional cost in their productivity suites.
  • Eliminating duplication will require some change of habits, but can dramatically reduce on-going IT costs.
Audit your communication tools.
  • Are you paying for, and not using your available communication tools?
  • Chat, video, and collaboration tools are standard in Microsoft 365 and G Suite, and can reduce or eliminate the need for expensive voice, teleconference, video conference, and online meeting solutions.
  • A modest investment in training/education can help minimize communication costs.
Replace file servers with file services.
  • Most businesses using Microsoft 365 or G Suite are storing files in these systems; these same businesses still run on-premise or hosted file servers.
  • OneDrive, SharePoint, My Drive, and Shared Drives make it easy to save, share, and manage files.  The OneDrive and Drive File Stream clients connect your end user applications to your cloud file services.
  • Moving files from servers to cloud services eliminates the need for physical services, monthly MSP monitoring fees, backup/recovery costs, anti-virus costs, and more.
  • If your staff need to access your on-premise services remotely, you may also be able to reduce or eliminate expenses related to VPN and other remote access services.
  • While you will still want and need to protect cloud-resident files, your cost to store, share, and manage files will be lower.
Move applications and systems from on-premise to cloud
  • You can lower you monthly operating costs and give you the ability to scale your resources and costs up and down as needed on a monthly basis.
  • Make it easier to reduce your physical footprint for potential savings on rent and utilities.
  • Scale your services up and down as needed to avoid unnecessary costs and capital expenditures.
Execute a service and data governance strategy
  • Scale services up and down as needed to manage costs
  • Ensure data is secure, managed, and protected
  • Leverage data archiving services to minimize active account costs

To explore your options and best next moves, contact us for a complimentary Cloud Advisor session.


 

“Deja Vu?” or “Have We Learned Our Lesson?”

Hurricane Matthew as of 2pm on Oct 4th

Hurricane Matthew as of 2pm on Oct 4th

As of this blog post, Hurricane Matthew is churning through the western Caribbean with a projected path eerily similar to Superstorm Sandy in 2012. In its wake, Sandy left a path of destruction up the East Coast and deep into New England with many families and businesses still in the process of rebuilding. Small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) up and down the eastern seacoast were crippled by flooding, loss of infrastructure, and extended Internet and power outages; many were unable to recover.

Could this be a devastating Deja Vu, or did we learn our lesson?

Have you ensured that your information services and data will survive the next storm? Do you know how quickly your business can recover if (more like when) the next storm hits?

Path of Superstorm Sandy in 2012

Path of Hurricane Sandy in 2012

These questions feel more pressing as our next potential big storm churns towards Florida.

Good. Better. Best.

Your “Good” strategy is Backup. Ensure that you back up all of your critical data. Backups should be off site to a service that lets you restore to new systems quickly and efficiently.

Your “Better” strategy is Recovery. In addition to backups, ensure you have the ability to recovery quickly to new systems or to a temporary data center. When your  Return to Operations (RTO) time lets you continue running your business without significant impact to you or your customers, your recovery plan is sound.

Your “Best” strategy is ResilienceYour business is resilient when you can continue running your business with minimal disruption and with little or no inconvenience to your customers, regardless of the weather outside. By placing key applications and services in the cloud, your business can continue to run whether or not your office is open. With Internet access and a browser, your team can connect and work. And while you still may have some aspects of your IT running on premise, a solid cloud strategy keeps critical systems available and operating.

Resiliency Roadmap

For most SMBs, you should consider having the following services hosted or in the cloud. Depending on your applications and needs, you can use Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions or host your applications on cloud/hosted servers with virtual/remote desktops.

  • Communications
    • Email / Calendar / Contacts
    • Telephony — cloud/hosted Voice over IP (VoIP)
    • Messaging / Voice & Video Conferencing
  • Collaboration
    • File Storage & Sharing
    • Productivity Tools (document, spreadsheet, presentation editors)
  • Key Business Apps
    • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
    • Account / Finance
    • Service / Support
    • Others …

Creating a Resilient business requires strategic thinking, advanced planning, and solid execution. This is especially true when you have integrated applications and systems that you cannot change in isolation. At a high level, the roadmap is:

  1. Identify the applications and services
  2. Prioritize all applications and services based on the impact in the event of a service outage. Look outward and inward, remembering to consider customer impact.
  3. Starting with your highest priority applications and systems, evaluate if your level or protection: Backup, Recovery, or Resilient protection.
  4. Identify and implement solutions that take you from Backup to Recovery, from Recovery to Resilience, or from Backup all the way to Resilience.
  5. Repeat as you move through your prioritized list.

While you may not have time to make your business Resilient before Hurricane Matthew works its way up the coast, you have options to improve your backups and your ability to recover that can be implemented within hours rather than days and weeks. Think about the value of keeping your business running and ensuring its survival. Act now.


Contact us immediately if you want assistance with your backup, recovery, or resiliency services.


 

Resilience Trumps Continuity

business resilience
The unexpected will happen. It is inevitable. Sometimes the unexpected is a good thing. In technology, the unexpected is usually bad.  It may be small … or big … or catastrophic.

Part of our role as IT professionals is to expect and prepare for the unexpected. We backup data so that we can restore files that are accidentally deleted, overwritten, or damaged.  We backup systems so that we can recover them in case of hardware or software failures. Many business design and implement disaster recovery plans. These plans provide the means for companies to recovery from larger incidents, ranging from burst pipes and building fires to blizzards and hurricanes.

In recent years, the focus has been on “Business Continuity” planning. Business continuity intends to prevent disruption to operations, even in the face of larger incidents or disasters. While great in concept, most small and mid-size enterprises cannot afford to fully duplicate systems in redundant data centers and provide alternate work sites for employees.

Enter Business Resiliency!

Business Resiliency is based on the objective of enabling a business to continue (or rapidly resume) operations with some accommodations.  In other words, you may not be running 100%, but you will be running soon enough and well enough given the situation. Resiliency is about bending without breaking.

Consider Hurricane Sandy that devastated parts of the US Eastern Seaboard.  Many businesses were physically destroyed by the flooding. Many others were shut down by the indirect effects of the flooding as some areas along the coast lost critical infrastructure — including water and sewer. Businesses left physically intact but without power for days considered themselves lucky as some areas waited months for reconstruction.

Consider the ice storms and blizzards throughout the Northeast US in recent years.  For many businesses, the only disruption was loss of power.  And while in many of the storms outages where generally localized, some businesses went without power for as long as three weeks.

The same holds true for businesses in “tornado alley” in the midwest. A tornado may leave your business unscathed, but it may take days or weeks for power and water to be restored.

In each of these scenarios, backup/restore/recovery is not enough to get the business back up and running. And, again, most small and mid-size businesses cannot afford to maintain disaster recovery systems and sites.

Cloud Fosters Resiliency!

Most businesses can afford to move IT systems into cloud computing and hosted solutions.  And in doing so, businesses can affordably build resiliency.

With all of these disasters, you did not have to travel too far inland to be out of the damage zone.  Businesses with on-premise equipment had to purchase and wait for delivery of replacements, rebuild their systems, and (hopefully) recover their data from their off-site backups. Certainly doable, but costly and time consuming.  It can take 2 to 4 days just to get the equipment in place and ready to restore.

Businesses in the cloud faced a different scenario and outcome. Moving to an area with power and Internet, businesses running in the cloud were up and running in hours (some in minutes) and some were never “down” at all.


To discuss how cloud computing can improve the resiliency of your business, contact us for a no-obligation conversation or click here to learn about our RestartIT solutions.