Beating the weather with technology


Following the economy's dominance of the news agenda during 2009, there has been something of a let-up during the first week of 2010, as another topic has taken over the headlines -- the weather. Certainly across Europe, heavy snowfall is creating widespread disruption, with transport heavily affected.

It has been suggested that the disruption caused will cost UK businesses £600m, due to the impact of staff being unable to get to work, and a number of other countries including France and Germany are encountering similar problems. Smaller work groups are likely to be the most seriously affected, as the impact of staff absenteeism is more noticeable among smaller teams.

Fortunately, many businesses have been able to negate the impact of the severe weather by the use of technology. Companies that have already adopted teleworking solutions are able to continue business-as-usual, with staff able to work from home as technologies including web sharing, video and audio conferencing enable collaboration across distributed teams. Hosted and cloud-based services also provide the potential to extend enterprise applications to remote workers, while protecting the security of corporate data. 

This same technology was also trumpeted several months ago as a possible way to mitigate problems caused by swine flu -- again, staff affected could continue to work from home while remaining seamlessly integrated with the business. This of course comes alongside the everyday benefits of teleworking for staff and companies, which we have discussed previously here and here.

Less fortunately, the Continuity Forum, a group providing resources for business looking at their contingency plans, said that the recession has slowed the adoption of technologies which could be beneficial when operations are disrupted. This, of course, is one of the dangers of holding onto the purse strings too tightly in tough times: there is the danger that investments that could be extremely beneficial in the near future will also fall by the wayside.

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.