1. Offsite web contact database courtesy of www.salesforce.com Sign up for their free single user account and get up to 20MB space free. There are enough free format fields to stretch to your BC plans, listing suppliers, staff and other relevant operational numbers in groups and sub-groups as required. Salesforce back up the data, giving you a reliable and convenient route to all your essential contact details from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Access is via secure 128 bit encrypted https username/password log on, so your data is safe. Whoever said 'nothing is for nothing' had not reckoned on Salesforce's free user offer.
2. Free 0870 numbers from the likes of www.skycomuk.com These numbers can be diverted to any underlying landline, or mobile number. Hence, if you find that your entire place of work is unavailable, you can go online and switch the relevant 0870 number to divert straight to your preferred alternative. This gives you a robust solution to key aspects of telecommunications resilience, even in extreme scenarios, such as a bird flu pandemic, where huge sections of staff may need to work from home.
3. Wireless broadband at home and at work from any number of suppliers. Many of your staff may have it already, but when catering for flexible operational scenarios within your BC plan, it becomes a high priority. Cost depends on supplier, but make sure key staff have at least 2Mbps access, for as little as £20 a month. We use BT as the largest operator of such networks and seldom have issues. Wireless equipment can be sourced from your local Dixons, Currys, or PC World, or even direct from BT, for less than £50. Spread that expense over the life of the employee and compare it to the value of the employee per hour and we think you will agree it is money well spent. Its value is in the ability to connect to the internet from multiple places in the home and for visitors to your home to do the same. This makes every household configured for real time team working over the internet, including free global voice communication via headsets through www.skype.com
4. Laptops with wi-fi. Combined with the wireless broadband solution, your people can take their work with them wherever they need to go. If your BC plan requires physical relocation, which it almost certainly does, then laptops make life for the worker much easier. Workplace recovery planning can be easier and cheaper by far. The cost difference between a laptop and a desk-bound system is now a few hundred pounds. Security must be addressed through disciplined use of passwords, and encryption may be necessary.
5. Hosted exchange server services from the likes of www.fasthosts.co.uk Starting packages of five fully-functional e-mail boxes can be obtained for as little as £50 per user per year, plus unlimited routing mailboxes for your entire organisation. You gain all the attractive features of MS Exchange, such as shared electronic online diaries, visibility of each other's mailboxes with permissions, shared files, plus web e-mail versions of your standard MS Outlook email, all backed up and hosted for you. When I recently lost my laptop, I switched straight to the online version of my e-mail, using a completely different computer and just kept going. Apple and Lotus Notes offer alternatives here, but as I do not use them I cannot recommend them.
6. Mass backup devices like the Maxtor external hard drive range. Software provided with such devices often includes a 'one-click' complete incremental system backup function. These devices will save you and your staff hours of heartache and days of wasted time, if used regularly. Cost depends on size of disk, but look for 100GB of space for around £50-£75.
7. USB memory keys for essential files, like your BC plan, or your operations procedures manual. If you are canny, you can sometimes get one free from one of your suppliers. Contact www.criticall.co.uk with your personal contact details if you are a budget-holding business continuity professional and we will send you a 1GB memory key in the post, as long as stocks last.>
8. VPN client software to enable your IT staff, or outsourced service provider to work on your systems remotely. This requires the relevant secure configurations of your firewalls, but will mean that essential IT operations can be run from anywhere in the world with broadband internet access. We combine this facility with BT's OpenZone offering ( www.bt.com ).
9. Fireproof safe. Some things have to exist on paper. Whether it is copies of insurance certificates, accounts, signed contracts, or copies of your BC plan and operations procedures manual, safes cost a few hundred pounds from the likes of Costco ( www.costco.co.uk ) and Staples ( www.staples.co.uk ). If you do not have a specialist safe, pack files tightly together in metal filing cabinets, or cupboards, as this will minimise fire damage. If possible, keep them off the floor too, in case of flooding.
10. Two-way automated notification system for larger organisations (typically over £5m p.a. revenues or over 100 staff). These cost as little as £500 a month, inclusive of several thousand messages, and enable you to broadcast e-mail, pager, SMS and instant e-mail (Blackberry) messages to key recipients. Value for money comes from their versatility. The same system can be used for day to day operations, marketing, team communications (messages to mobile staff), as well as for the traditional BC uses. Two-way enables recipients to confirm receipt, including vital messages in response (such as "I'm OK, or "Injured. Please send help"). Such systems are essential when call cascades just do not work.
This is our top 10, based on a decade of specialising in emergency notification solutions. We would love to know yours.
Send to Ian Hammond, chief executive officer of Criticall, E-mail: email@example.com The favourite gets a bottle of champagne!