The IT Snowpocalypse Survival Guide

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A whopper of a snow storm is predicted to hit the DC area on Friday afternoon (1/22/16). Many people will want to work from homeinstead of facing a 6-hour commute back to the ’burbs. Are you ready for that?

When you have to keep the association running in harsh weather conditions, you need the technology equivalent of the “bread, milk, and TP” list—or, depending on your household, the “beer, wine, and cheese” list. We’ve put together this basic list of technology and virtual work issues to address before you leave the office this afternoon (1/21/16).

Blizzard preparation checklist for leadership and IT teams

Golden rules: Put someone specific in charge of each of these areas. Test any system or technology that staff will rely on when working remotely.

Power: Know how to stay current on your building’s power situation. Have contact info for utility companies or building management.

Equipment: Have a plan for keeping key equipment warm in case the power goes out—computer equipment does not survive well in cold conditions. Take sensitive equipment home if you can do so safely and securely.

Network: Have the contact info for your hosting provider or Managed Services Provider (MSP).

Backup: Make sure you back up all systems before you leave the office today. Confirm that any data hosted on servers outside your control (cloud hosting and/or systems hosted by vendors) are also backed up.

Phone and email:

  • Forward personal extensions to cellphones or instruct staff to set call forwarding on their phones.
  • Instruct staff to change their voicemail greeting and email auto-reply to reflect working conditions.
  • Set expectations with staff for checking voicemail and email.
  • Print remote access instructions for the network and phone system along with the IT support phone number(s) on a double-sided business card. Distribute these cards to all staff.

Collaboration platforms: Share the procedures for using your association’s preferred platform for phone and web conferencing (virtual meetings).

Temporary document storage: Tell everyone how to temporarily store files in case the network is unavailable.

Passwords: Make sure everyone knows their own passwords for network access, voice mail, and other systems. If any individuals need password resets, do them now.

Communication with staff: Develop a phone tree to communicate office conditions.

Communication with the outside world: Keep the main company voice mail updated with current conditions and how to contact staff. Use social media accounts as appropriate to provide updates.

IT support: Establish who is going to be on call to help staff working remotely. Be ready to field help desk calls—meaning, don’t dip into that wine too heavily. Tip: Regardless of the weather, DelCor Partner clients can access support any time at delcor.com/support. (But keep in mind, we’re not super-human!)

Blizzard preparation checklist for staff

Be prepared to work from home:

  • Have a list of staff and key member contacts, including cellphone numbers, email addresses, and any other contact info you may need, like IM or social media usernames.
  • Have written instructions on how to remotely access the network, email, voicemail, instant messaging, web conferencing, and IT support.

Make sure you have all your passwords (and they work—request resets now if they don’t):

  • Phone
  • Laptop
  • Email
  • Remote desktop
  • SaaS accounts that may normally just be stored in your web browser (for example, SurveyMonkey, social media, or your CMS web portal)

Phone and email:

  • Set up out-of-office messages (phone and email) informing people about the situation, your anticipated availability, and alternate ways to reach you or otherwise get help in urgent situations.
  • Forward your work phone to your cellphone.
  • Know how to turn your cellphone into a hotspot in case you lose wifi at home.
  • Check your voicemail and email often.

Computer: Bring a laptop home with your necessary files on the local hard drive—remember to move them back to the network when you return to the office. Make sure your laptop is fully charged. Don’t ever leave your laptop or other equipment in your car—bring them inside with you.

Power: Charge your power packs ahead of time so you can recharge your cellphone and other devices. (My DelCor backup battery is charging as I type!)

Last-minute supplies: Maybe you can get Amazon Prime to deliver these winter accessories in time for the storm—yeah, good luck with that!

Be prepared for the next storm

There’s only so much you can do in an afternoon. But, learn what works, what doesn’t, and what you need (tangibles and intangibles, like policies) to be ready the next time a blizzard or other disaster approaches—or simply when employees need to work from home.

And, finally, if you need help wading through these types of preparations, contact our DelCor team to find out how we can help you develop business continuity and disaster recovery plans, as well as virtual work processes.

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Flickr photo by Bart