Monthly Archives November 2019

Bad Weather, Telecom Outages, and You

Severe, bizarre, and downright crazy weather conditions make headlines every single winter, and we all accept the impact these conditions have on our travel, deliveries, and even our well-being. Yet we seem to take for granted that the networks we use to communicate will continue on uninterrupted.

The truth is that wind, snow, rain and storms can damage the fiber-optic gables that provide internet as well as conventional phone landlines. Immediate damage to communications networks aside, exposure to the elements – such as water and wind – can create long-term degradation that causes interference in our transmissions.

Weather can have a particularly bad effect on your mobile and network signals, as rain, snow, extreme cold and even heat can disrupt masts and towers. In order to fight against this, telecom companies often install signal boosters in local areas to try to keep users connected. In any case, a disruption in signal often requires engineers to fix the issue manually, which is often a slow process.

These coverage outages present a significant pain point for any business that relies on phone, wireless and internet services every day. Some of the larger or more specifically tailored companies have back-up systems in place to ensure the work pipeline continues in the event of an outage, but the vast majority of us depend on properly functioning lines, cables, transmitters and other data systems. Outages due to malfunctions in these systems can bring a company’s operations to a complete standstill.

Thankfully, some preparation can go a long way. So what can you do to prepare your business for the event of a major system outage? Here are a few tips:

Determine ahead of time how an outage will impact your business and plan for it. A Business Continuity Plan can help you avoid downtime and continue operations.

Every good plan needs a good team, so make sure you know who is responsible for what in the event of an outage. Does anything need to go manual? Can work continue with pen and paper in the meantime? Assign jobs and create and distribute checklists and physical templates that employees can use when their digital solutions aren’t available.

Another important aspect is making sure that you have a solution in place to communicate with employees, clients, customers and other locations. Depending on the size and arrangement of your business, that could mean anything from satellite phones to walking down the hallway.

If you have customers that might be impacted directly by your outage, your communication needs to extend to them and be in place well before the outage takes place. If your website has a status page, it should be kept properly updated and linked in key locations like your contact page, your support accounts and your help pages. You should also consider keeping your status page hosted on separate infrastructure, if possible, to minimize the risk that an outage takes it down as well. Studies have shown that recovering properly from a failure in your service can actually lead to a higher approval rate than never having a failure at all. By making sure your customers are informed on what is happening, what it means for them, and what you’re doing to solve the issue, an outage can actually have a positive impact on your customer’s perceptions of your business.

Peak Season Surcharges: What to Look Out For This Holiday Season

If you’re experienced with shipping using the major carriers, you likely know that, depending on the time period and characteristics of the package, you might be subject to peak season surcharges that can drive up your shipping costs during the holiday season.

For both UPS and FedEx, peak period generally starts for large packages around early October, and for additional handling packages by late November. These peak season surcharges usually come to an end in early January. This year, both FedEx and UPS are not applying peak surcharges on residential deliveries, which is great news for both e-commerce retailers and online holiday shoppers.

While peak surcharges for large and over-max-limits packages are fairly simple to understand, the major carriers also include a charge on U.S. Domestic, U.S. Import and U.S. Export deliveries that are labeled as additional handling packages.

These additional handling packages can take many forms, from oversize in weight, length or width to strange or irregular packaging. This could include packaging made of wood, metal, hard or soft plastics, and even Styrofoam. Cylindrical shaped items like barrels, drums or tires that aren’t encased in corrugated cardboard could also fall victim to extra charges. These charges are slapped on solely at the discretion of the carrier, so if your package isn’t being shipped out in a plain old cardboard box, you should be aware of the possibility of an additional handling charge.

If you have not received a missive of some sort from your vendor informing you of these peak season surcharges, you should visit their website and make sure you’re aware of any charges that might apply to you.

Depending on your shipping needs, peak season surcharges can add a fair bit to your small package shipping and courier bills. Most businesses can’t just stop shipping during the holidays in order to avoid these surcharges – in fact, many businesses do the majority of their shipping entirely within peak season. That’s why it is so important to pay careful attention to your bills and reduce costs wherever possible in order to compensate for the extra charges. If you don’t have specialized software that helps you keep track of the changes in your bills, these charges can slip through the cracks and come as a real shock when they come out the other side of accounts payable.

Of course, if it’s possible to ship your product before or after the holiday season, it could be something to strongly consider. Not only can the extra fees add up, but your packages are much more likely to be delayed, damaged or lost during peak season. Plus, bad weather can greatly impact your shipping plans, with winter storms having the potential to bring regular shipments to a halt. If you’re shipping in northern areas, it might be a good idea to build some extra time into your shipment schedules to account for the weather.

It might also be prudent to keep in contact with alternate shippers, just in case you need to exercise your options if your primary vendor runs into issues this holiday season.