Businesses must be proactive to keep the lights on…
With South African businesses in the throes of debilitating load shedding, there are widespread concerns around reduced output and fast-eroding productivity. Not to mention the negative sentiment and irritability that the rolling power outages tend to evoke. Yet by taking proactive measures and focusing on key upgrades, business leaders can, to a degree, provide some much-needed ‘immunity’ for employees. Indeed, by preparing for the worst and investing in the right technology, businesses can remain on track and focus on growth.
Let’s take a closer look at the impacts of load shedding on South African Businesses
Given the fact that load shedding is now taking place for longer periods, businesses have to think beyond the usual fallbacks of simply working from laptops and tethering/hot-spotting to personal mobile devices for connectivity. For example, a desktop computer running on an uninterruptible power source/UPS usually doesn’t last beyond 20 minutes, while a laptop in full use typically only lasts for two hours. Relying on a generator certainly provides more continuity, however, generators can cause electrical spikes that damage equipment over time (hence the term ‘dirty power’).
With the above in mind, businesses should invest in both a network and hardware revamp. Taking these steps will not only see the business through the short to middle-term effects of load shedding but will also reduce operational costs over the long term. With Eskom’s proposed 15 percent-a-year tariff hike over the next three years, businesses have to become intelligent about power consumption to be sustainable.
1 – Stay online during load shedding – Get onto Fibre Connectivity
For almost every business, staying connected is paramount. Fortunately, fibre Internet access consumes very little power – and most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will keep it running for long periods. For businesses that aren’t on fibre, now would be a smart time to make the move. That said, other forms of connectivity such as Microwave and Cellular that require more power are still great fallbacks – and again, it is your ISP’s job to keep them running.
2 – Power the Network Infrastructure
Businesses need to provide backup power to all their network components: this includes the router that connects to the Internet, firewalls, switches, and Wi-Fi Access Points (AP’s). These devices don’t have huge power requirements but they’re often forgotten about when it comes to UPS’s and redundant power.
3 – Harness VoIP Phones
Many businesses are already using VoIP when it comes to telephones, arguably the most basic of office tools.
The increased business use of VoIP in South Africa is a very positive trend because these systems are much easier to keep running during outages than their more traditional counterparts. Most VoIP telephones can be powered via Power over Ethernet (PoE) – which means the power is coming from the Switch and not from the wall outlet. For businesses that haven’t yet shifted to VoIP, this is a reasonably easy transition to make.
4 – Embrace Power Savvy Hardware
As mentioned above, using laptops instead of power-hungry desktops is a reliable fallback. This has also become a far more affordable option with laptop prices have dropped considerably. Beyond laptops, however, businesses can also opt for microcomputing devices such as the CloudGate X – a locally developed computer that uses less than ten percent of the electricity that a typical desktop requires. This type of energy-savvy device thus enables businesses to continue operating for a longer time (with much of the processing power and storage capabilities that traditional computers offer).
5 – Migrate to the Cloud
Many business benefits are associated with migrating to the Cloud, which has been written and spoken about exhaustively. Yet for SA businesses, load shedding would arguably trump them all. In short, cloud migration is the process of partially or completely deploying an organization’s digital assets, services, IT resources or applications to the Cloud. For SA business owners, harnessing the Cloud, therefore, means that it’s someone else’s problem to keep the power going and ensure that the organisation/customer has access to the above mentioned digital assets, services, IT resources and applications. Indeed, it’s one of the major reasons why you pay a monthly fee for cloud services. For businesses that haven’t yet migrated to the Cloud, the transition can be relatively easy provided that you enlist a competent service provider/IT consultant.
6 – Invest in Redundant Power – fight load shedding from within
UPS’s are practical and affordable sources of backup power but large ones can be prohibitively expensive. It is, therefore, more economical to purchase numerous smaller UPS to power the most important parts of the IT system. A lot of electronic equipment also doesn’t draw lots of power but if you want to run for longer you’ll need to extend battery packs or add additional batteries. Generators are less practical and less affordable but they provide much more continuity. When using generators, it must be emphasized that because they provide ‘dirty power’, there is a risk of damage to electronic equipment over the long term. It is, therefore, better to use a generator to charge a UPS – which then powers the electronic equipment. (Using a generator to power devices directly is only recommended with power conditioners that regulate voltage and ‘clean’ the output.)
As businesses look ahead to what will certainly be a challenging year, leaders can lighten the mood by proactively investing in power saving – and power-savvy – technology and infrastructure. Not only will this ensure that the work gets done, but also that employees remain positive and engaged.