Hey, that’s your business! Or it could be. Vandals pulled a large number of BT cables out of the ground in our local town (Camberley), leaving thousands of people and hundreds of businesses without their phones. It will take weeks to repair all of the damage. Sadly, with the increasing value of the copper in phone lines, this sort of incident is becoming increasingly common.

It used to be an issue in developing countries, where a few hundred Kilos of copper were worth a day’s wages. That equation now holds true in Europe as well. Systems do get broken, and good businesses should plan for that – see Seth’s post this week: “What do you do when your systems break?“.

Expect the unexpected isn’t just an aphorism, it is good business productivity advice. Many of these people that lost their phone lists also lost their broadband connection at the same time. That means people and businesses with no phones and no Internet.


Now that copper is so valuable, what’s your communications back up plan? Given that most people have mobile phones, the ability to make calls isn’t lost – it just becomes slight more expensive. Also, with many service providers it is possible to divert a landline number to a mobile one. Watch out for how you activate the divert – if it requires Internet access or the phone line, that’s going to be a problem. For the call centres I used to run, the divert process was automated.

So, what about Internet access? Well, the good news is that mobile data services are becoming more and more affordable, even here in the UK. Another alternative is to know where your local WiFi hotspots are, or have an exchange agreement with another business or friend in a nearby town. That way there is somewhere to go to get those critical e-mails out (or in!), and let people know what is happening, if you need to.

As Seth points out in his post, you also need to give staff (and yourself) flexibility about how to deal with the ‘normal’ day to day business. You may not have access to all of the usual systems and information, but make sure that remains your problem, not the customers.

It’s amazing how dependent us business people are on e-mail and web these days. Services can be vulnerable, so it is worth having a good recovery plan worked out ahead of time. That way you are prepared when things do go wrong, minimizing the impact on productivity.