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October 7, 2019 - 10:02am

Article written by Andy Holtmann on the Viewpoint blog

When disaster strikes, having the right technology and a solid plan in place can ensure limited business disruption

Hurricane Dorian, like so many before it, left a swath of destruction from the Bahamas to the east coast of the United States. Whether a hurricane, fire, flood or other disaster of any type, the communities impacted often rely on construction companies to quickly get things moving in a positive direction. To ensure your construction firm can immediately get to the business of helping its community it’s vital to have a meticulous crisis plan — and the right technology — in place.

Contractors rely on heaps of data to facilitate complex construction projects, using multiple applications and with hundreds, if not thousands, of workers tracking data. As contractors already (hopefully) know, protecting this information against cyber-attacks and other daily threats, is paramount to maintaining business continuity. If your data is compromised, so are your business workflows. We don’t often think about how our operations would be affected should a natural disaster occur — but we should be. And, the same strategies we apply to cybersecurity can be used to protect a construction company against loss of data in the case of a disaster.

Putting an Effective Crisis Plan in Place

When you’re reliant on data, it’s probably the first thing you think about when considering a crisis strategy. However, an effective disaster plan includes but isn’t limited to data. Foundational crisis plans include steps to protect all areas of your business. Will your employees and customers be safe? Do employees know your disaster plan and what to do in the event of one? Will physical assets be protected and are they properly insured? Here are just a few things to consider for your crisis checklist:

  • Does your company have an area where employees can “shelter in place” if needed?
  • Do you have emergency contacts for all employees?
  • Is there an established chain of command and sets of responsibilities for when disasters occur?
  • Do you have vital personal information like employee and customer records securely backed up?
  • Is project data backed up to ensure limited business disruption?
  • Are your company’s physical buildings and/or projects underway up to all safety codes?
  • Do you have a continually updated inventory of equipment/assets and is documentation like insurance, contracts, etc. up to date and backed up?
  • Is there a current list of vendor and subcontractors contacts so that information can be shared collaboratively on timely basis?

Again, these are just a few things that you should be considering when crisis planning. A solid disaster plan can get quite detailed and it should be consistently reviewed, practiced and updated to net the best results should an incident occur.

Safeguarding the Data

Essential to any crisis plan, contractors should be backing up files and data — in multiple places. Having continual access to your data is essential should local devices or servers go down. By ensuring critical data files are routinely backed up in more than one location means that work can continue as planned.

That has traditionally meant having both an on-site backup and a backup at a remote location. But what happens if these physical servers fail, backups are not consistently done, or a disaster is large enough to compromise backup locations as well? Not only do on-premise and remote physical backups prove costly to maintain, they require consistent time and attention to ensure backups are happening and data is being updated.

Using cloud-based, integrated construction management software, however, allows contractors to put the onus on maintaining servers and backing up data on the software provider. Project and business data backups happen automatically, providing daily protection, with costs often included or rolled into users’ subscription costs. That eliminates expensive capital assets for servers or IT strain and overhead to consistently maintain the hardware.

New software features and security functionality are also rolled out automatically. By coupling the backups with cybersecurity protections, cloud vendors use the latest technologies to thwart cybercriminals, providing an extra level of protection not otherwise achieved through in-house backups, but also giving contractors the needed backups of data throughout the company’s information.

Check out this informative blog on 10 benefits you are missing if you aren't operating in the cloud.

A Case for the Cloud

Crisis planning often starts hypothetical but the need for a solid disaster strategy can become reality quickly. It did for Beyer Group Ltd., when Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters drowned outdated software systems at the Texas-based company.

When the floodwaters swarmed the Houston area in 2017, Beyer’s key role of maintaining emergency infrastructure, levees and drainage took a step back as the company’s web-facing server setup on premise lost access to vital data that was needed to ensure it could still effectively operate and help the rest of the community. As the Beyer website went down, teams were locked out of access to email, company directories and data that included emergency contacts, job costing, job numbers and codes, customer contacts, equipment start codes and operator names. Getting Beyer Group mobilized to help the city of Houston was met with unneeded challenges and delays.

The difficulty in supplying needed support to the city — the backbone of the business — was enough to prompt change.

“It was an easy move after the hurricane,” says Gene Krejci, Beyer, the company’s chief financial officer. “We decided to go to the cloud with as much as we could. It took less than a week for us to come to the decision to move.”

The transition to the cloud-based version of its construction management software, Spectrum, took less than a day and with no downtime. Beyer’s efficiency improved dramatically with access to real-time data and functionality, and the entire company has become more collaborative and interconnected, while becoming more mobile with improved off-site connectivity.

“With these technology changes, I can move quicker than (other companies) can,” Krejci says. “There are going to be some bigger changes in construction technology soon, so, if they’re not already in the cloud, they’re already behind.”

And vulnerable.

To learn more about how cloud-based construction software can give your organization the data security and business continuity it needs to weather any disaster, contact CDP today.

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