As I post this, Skype is still down globally. There’s little doubt that Skype is the largest player in the VOIP and Internet chat communications market globally – 6.8 billion billed minutes in the first half of 2010 alone… 0.57% of the worlds Internet traffic is Skype traffic.

The sad thing about what’s happening today is that Skype has, over time, become the de facto communication tool for entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses – especially those who

  1. Are working to keep their costs low,
  2. Use globally outsourced workers for their day-to-day operations,
  3. Have a mobile workforce, and
  4. Those who have bought in to Skype’s SkypeIn (landline numbers diverted to Skype or your mobile), SkypeAway (Skype’s voicemail service), and SkypeOut (cheap VOIP phonecall from Skype to normal numbers of any kind… this is the one that’s killing me today) – all of which are down for many people right now.

Many of these business will have nothing in place for this sort of outage… They simply never thought it would happen.

One friend of mine told me that they’ve “been using Skype for 6 years and have never seen it go down”. Another friend of mine who runs a company where the ability to take call is critical for business hasn’t been able to accept call to his company numbers (all 20 of them) all day today.

The lesson? In enterprise it’s called “Business Continuity Planning”. Here’s how you can play like the big boys…

The principle: Make sure you have a backup for your critical business functions… Always – Especially the ones that rely wholly on 3rd parties.

Make a list of everything business function that you rely on 3rd parties to provide or facilitate.

For me, the list looks like this:

  1. Email (Gmail)
  2. Invoicing (Freshbooks)
  3. Banking (Not telling…)
  4. Project Management (Basecamp)
  5. Mobile Phone (Telstra)
  6. Web Hosting (Various)
  7. There are others, but you get the picture.

Then have a look at the list, and for each business function ask yourself “How would my business continue functioning if there was…”

  1. A half an hour outage?
  2. A day’s outage?
  3. If the service suddenly vanished?

Once you’ve worked this out, plan accordingly. For e.g. Have a backup email address with a DIFFERENT provider that you automatically cc emails to. Set up an account with Fring, Faktortel, or a different VOIP provider. Have a manual backup for your invoicing. And so on…

If your business could carry on all the same with all kinds of outages, well done! There is no need for you to worry. But is that the case? Are you sure?

My point is that every business owner should put a bit of time aside to think about BCP – Most never do until they have a day like today. And don’t even get me started on disaster recovery… I’ll talk about that another time.