It’s official – 2022 has been the hardest year of load shedding in South Africa to date.
Unsurprisingly, this has a massive impact on the economy and makes it even harder for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to keep the lights on.
Analysts from Absa estimate that recent rolling blackouts have managed to wipe an entire percentage point off our GDP this quarter, as well as pushing South Africa towards a technical recession.
For businesses themselves, the impacts are more immediate. Business and investor group Sakeliga undertook an in-depth survey of their members and found that median businesses suffered an average of R8000 in lost revenue monthly. More than 85% of respondents reported losses in the form of equipment damaged by power surges. Whilst 97% rated the impact of load-shedding over the last six months as ‘highly disruptive’, both to their own business and their suppliers.
It’s become clear that for the foreseeable future, local businesses must continue to adapt to load shedding and come up with business continuity solutions. We cover some actionable strategies to help you get started.
Actionable Ways to Mitigate the Impact of Loadshedding Downtime:
Have a Business Continuity Plan
A business continuity plan should take all of your business’s processes that rely on electricity into account, and document what should be actioned next, and by whom, when the power cuts. That includes alternative power sources, keeping communication lines open with staff, clients, and suppliers, support for remote employees, data storage and backups, as well as physical continuity measures such as tasks for the alarm system, lighting, ventilation, and office kitchen.
Backup Regularly to Prevent Data Loss and Corruption
Data loss and corruption are one of the biggest risks for a business during load-shedding. Ensure your business has a reliable data backup system in place that regularly backs up all data, documents, email, and software – companywide. Alongside this, remind employees to save their work before scheduled outage times.
It’s important to remember that during brownouts your system might be slower and more vulnerable to corruption and data loss, whilst power surges can cause permanent damage to electronics like servers and VoIP devices. It is thus essential for your ICT and electrical systems to take such risks into account. In short, ideally aim for three separate backups, with at least one of those off-site.
Invest in Alternative Power
With the right technology on your side, the impacts of load-shedding can be mitigated significantly. By investing in a generator, inverter, or an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), businesses can minimize downtime and disruption. The right choice normally depends on the nature of your business, uptime requirements, and budget.
We have previously written on the pros and cons of a UPS vs inverter.
When purchasing new business electronics, prioritise laptops, tablets, battery-powered routers, USB dongles, card machines, etc. which can be used when the power is out. Purchase several power banks for employees to use in the office. These can make a huge difference when only a few hours of extra ‘juice’ is needed at a time. Rechargeable lights and portable lamps are also worthwhile additions.
Dip Your Toes Off-Grid?
If you’re able to, it might be time to seriously consider investing in solar solutions. Not only can this ease some of the burden during load shedding, but your business will also enjoy tax incentives and lower monthly electricity bills for years to come.
If you share premises with other businesses, you could even look at joining forces to split the initial capital outlay. Plus, it wins you some brownie points with eco-conscious customers!
Adopt Cloud Computing
External cloud computing is an incredibly useful tool when it comes to business continuity. It allows data access and storage even if your premises are offline due to load shedding. Staff can continue to work wherever they are, whether that’s from home, in a coffee shop, or even just via mobile data in the office.
Remote Work / Flexible Working Hours
The effectiveness of remote work was proven during lockdown. If your business is able to offer remote work as an option for employees during power outages, it can help mitigate downtime, especially during the higher load-shedding stages.
Alternatively, you could allow for flexible work hours so that staff can come in when their area is being affected by load shedding, and head home early (or come in later) when the business is hit. This means you only have to provide alternate power solutions for the employees you really need on-site to perform their roles.
Plan Around the Load Shedding Schedule
One thing we can be thankful for is that Eskom does tend to stay reasonably within the schedule they give out.
Make sure you have an easy way to communicate and share the schedule with all your employees, and possibly with your suppliers and customers too if necessary – for example, if your landline numbers are going to be unavailable during load shedding, Microsoft SharePoint, social messaging, and bulk SMS are valid options.
Get Business Continuity Help with iSite Computers
These are just a few of the ways your business can mitigate potential losses during load shedding. If you’re looking for help in implementing business continuity and data backup strategies for load shedding and power outages, iSite Computers can assist.
Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us help you to protect your business against downtime.