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How to Protect Your Store Against Disaster and Disruptions

Technology has vastly improved retail transactions and made running a store more efficient, especially as stores now rely on point of sale (POS) systems, tablets and computers, digital signage, and inventory and asset management systems. Many of these require power and connectivity to operate, and when these elements are all working, stores run smoothly. But when they don’t work, it can result in lost revenues, upset customers, and loss of data.

For example, consider the power outage last year in Auckland, New Zealand that cost retailers more than $1 million in sales per day. Needless to say, it’s important to be as prepared as possible for situations like this, and to have procedures in place for when something inevitably goes wrong. It’s all part of a good business continuity plan.

To help you get started, here are some tips you can follow so that your store can quickly bounce back in the event of a disruption.

Choose a reliable network provider, and have a backup connection

If payment processing goes completely offline, customers may have to resort to using cash. Canadians used cash for more than 80% of their transactions in 1992, but that’s been declining – over 20 years later, cash was used in less than 45% of transactions in Canada. A makeshift “Cash Only” sign could potentially turn away customers who are used to paying by using credit or debit. In one extreme example that occurred earlier this year, a popular retail chain lost around $3 Million (USD) in revenue due to an outage that prevented them from processing credit payments for just three hours.

A disruption like a broken register or a power outage can also lead to upset customers. A recent study found that people waiting in a line felt stronger negative feelings of impatience when a server counter closed than they did positive feelings when a new one opened, showing that negative experiences tend to outweigh positive ones.

To mitigate outages caused by connectivity issues, start by choosing a reliable Internet provider for your point of sale system and other connected devices, with extensive support to ensure minimal downtime. But even with a reliable connection in place, consider a contingency plan like a 4G LTE wireless backup solution that can keep your transactions flowing even if your main connection goes down. Also, a retail business may already be using a wireless POS system for processing sales remotely at trade shows, pop-up shops, markets, festivals or if selling door-to-door – and such a system can be used in a pinch to accept credit and debit payments in store.

Make frequent and complete data backups

Store data is vitally important – and not just data on transactions.  Data is becoming the lifeblood of retail because it helps stores understand their customers, employees, supply chains, and other aspects of the business that help make it function properly.

Yet, there are many things that can make your store’s data vulnerable, whether it’s a hard disk malfunction, a natural disaster, or someone accidentally deleting a file. Therefore, it’s important to have data backups that are frequent and encompass all the data you need to function today and in the future. These backups should be stored in a different location than your store, in case there’s a regional outage or disaster that affects your area. You can do this by using a cloud backup solution like Bell Data Protect, which stores your data in a secure Canadian facility.

To be truly prepared for a disaster, it is also important to periodically test how quickly your data can be retrieved and how well it works.

Have backup power in place

There are few modern businesses that can operate without electricity, and an issue with the power grid can grind a store to a halt. Lighting, security and surveillance, refrigerators, and wired POS systems could all go down, meaning the store may lose out on revenue, and can also be subject to theft and spoilage.

This is why it’s a good idea to have a professionally installed standby generator that will start automatically within seconds of a power outage.

Even temporary power outages that last just a moment can be devastating. If the power just flickers off and on, some IT equipment may turn off abruptly. To protect your store from this issue, it’s important to plug any digital equipment into an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). A UPS stores power so that a minor outage doesn’t cause systems to shut down in the middle of a task, losing data and potentially damaging equipment.

The bottom line

When it comes to retail, every minute your store isn’t functioning well can affect your bottom line or your reputation with customers – whether it’s the fault of a natural disaster or a power outage. Thankfully there are many options available now that help you be prepared for the worst, and be able to bounce back from any disruption.

Has your store gone through a disaster and lived to tell the tale? Please let us know in the comments.

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