Cloudbox chief executive Justin Trent. Photo: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG – Eskom's problems are not going to be solved any time soon because two of South Africa's largest infrastructure projects - Medupi and Kusile power stations – have been poorly designed, badly built and are not generating sufficient power. Once completed, it is estimated that they would have cost a staggering R300 billion.

More concerning is that there is also not enough incentive for companies to move to solar, which in South Africa’s climate is clearly the obvious next best solution. Experts say South African's could be in this hole for up to five years, with no power for up to 16 hours a day.

Let's face it, load shedding is here to stay. Complaining certainly won't help, so one needs to accept reality and make a plan to survive this catastrophe.

Load shedding has damaging effects on electronic equipment, one needs to look at the direct risks and possible preventative measures. Equipment failure is common in times of load shedding because computers and other electronics are extremely sensitive items. Load shedding and generators create serious power surges, something that could easily destroy IT equipment.

Data loss is probably the biggest risk, especially with intermittent power spikes that will certainly destroy computer equipment.

Loss of productivity is by far the biggest cost to the company. Let's consider a basic example, an average salary of R25 000 per month equates to a cost of R165 per hour. With 10 staff, a two-hour load shedding outage will have a direct productivity cost of R3 300 per day and about R65 000 per month.

This is a very real risk to the survival of any business, so good preparation is essential. Get decent surge protection plugs, rather sacrifice a plug than an expensive piece of equipment.

It is also a good idea to replace all desktops with laptops because not only can they run without power for some period, but laptops have a measure of surge protection. A laptop charger will go first, and that is cheap to replace.

Nowadays, there are fantastic deals on refurbished laptops, they are as good as new and they come with a guarantee.

The next crucial piece of equipment is a UPS, it provides battery power for electronics that really need to keep running like routers, firewalls, switches and wifi. It will also provide surge protection for that equipment.

More importantly, use IT solutions like Cloudbox that allow you to work from anywhere, not having to rely on power at the office. If you have application server requirements, it’s time to look at Virtual Datacentre or Microsoft Azure solutions.

Furthermore, use a hosted phone system that can work without the office being online, and program it to automatically rollover to cellphones or softphones.

Load Shedding Survival Checklist:

  1. Surge plugs for all desks and equipment           
  2. All staff have laptops, battery live checked over 2 hours          
  3. UPS for core equipment with more than 2 hours runtime        
  4. Implement Cloudbox: email, file sharing, team chat and video works without office power. All data is automatically backed up offsite.
  5. Implement hosted PBX: Phone system works without power at the office, configured to automatically work when there is an outage.
  6. Implement Virtual Datacentre or Azure: for application servers like Pastel.
  7. Plan Level 1 (1 - 2 hours), work from office, all primary systems on battery   
  8. Plan Level 2 (2 hours +), staff to designated remote working locations (home, coffee shop, etc.)

Finally, have a well-communicated multi-stage plan so everyone understands what to do, and when. And when you consider the cost of preparing to survive load shedding, consider at the same time what the cost and impact to your business of not being prepared. Now wouldn’t it be lovely if Eskom thought as strategically?

Oliver Potgieter is Chief Technology Officer at Cloudbox.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Independent Media.

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