Disaster struck Trajectory Towers this week; a full-blown communications failure saw both our internet and our telephones rendered useless. Unable to call reception and inform them of our plight, we were forced to tackle our problem in 3D; someone had to go to downstairs and tell them our internet wasn’t working.
Whilst in reality the loss of connectivity benefited me personally – free of the distractions of the internet and with the data and programmes I needed available offline I had a productive morning (as well as something to blog about) – the same cannot be said for colleagues and neighbours, forced first to the lobby and subsequently to the nearest cafe in search of free wifi in a bid to regain some semblance of normal operating capacity.
Though it is easy to look back amusedly at the implications of losing something which feels so ubiquitous for only a few hours, serious questions remain. With more and more of our work taking place online – in ‘clouds’ and increasingly on smartphones and tablets – what is the impact of a loss of telecommunications, even a small one, on your business, and how will the potential for catastrophe grow as we move closer and closer to a paperless society?
2010 research by Dun & Bradstreet, an industry leader in business information for risk management, showed that 59% of Fortune 500 companies experience at least 1.6 hours of network downtime per week. Assuming an average of 10,000 employees per company, paid an average of £34 an hour, the cost of downtime in impotent labour alone would be £582,546 per week, or £30 million per year. Whilst these averages are useful in illustrating the scale of the impact of outages on business, we know that not all working hours are created equal; downtime in some periods may be manageable whilst proving disastrous in others.
Through our work with O2 – producing a report titled The Rise of Mobile in a Connected Society we have established empirically some of the positive impacts of mobile; 73% of business decision makers stated that mobile allows them “to be able to manage their time and feel more in control of their life”, and only 34% agreed that they work in the same place every day – a figure which highlights the liberating nature of these advancements with regards to when, where and how we work. With greater ubiquity comes greater reliance, and greater expectation, on devices and networks working as they should, as evidenced in the below graph highlighting the essential nature of mobile to businesses across a range of sizes. Using small businesses as an example – those with 9 or fewer employees – we find that for 33% of business decision makers mobile is essential, they can’t work the way they do without it.
Herein lies the problem – our heightened connectivity facilitates instant, endless potential for discovery, for collaboration, setting new standards for what we can achieve on an almost daily basis. Downtime however, remains stubbornly static; the higher the standard we set ourselves with the help of technology, the further we will fall short when the facility is cruelly and unpredictably taken away from us.