Game Over

Nothing can match the stomach churning, sweat inducing panic that you feel when you know you have lost all your data. Think of the lost hours, the lost money and the lost information and what that could mean for your business.

If that hasn’t made you squirm a little, let me tell you a story of how the digital animation giant Pixar almost disappeared. Not with a magic spell but with one tiny bit of code.

/bin/rm -r -f *

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Back in 1998 a small crew of Pixar’s animators were working against a hard deadline to produce Toy Story 2 in time for launch. In a project like this every animator is working on the same computer network. One person may be altering the lighting of a shot, whilst another is adjusting the movement of Woodie’s hat in the same scene. As the animators worked, elements of the scene started to disappear. First a texture looked odd, then a character’s face disappeared and then the whole world started to crumble as bodies, props and scenes vanished. By the time the server plugs were pulled only 10% of the original film survived. By mistake someone had entered the master delete code. As the animators’ screens froze and they went to lunch, the gravity of the situation had not yet sunk in.

Every company which holds data should have a backup system. However, according to the Guardian 48% of UK small businesses admitted that they had no regulated plans in place and 78% said they didn’t have a mobile data recovery plan. According to the British Chambers of commerce 93% of businesses who suffer data loss for over 10 days file for bankruptcy within the year.

Fortunately, Pixar had a backup system. Back in 1998 backups were stored on tapes – when one tape was full this would trigger an alert to replace it. However on this occasion no alert was triggered. This meant that as newer work was written it began pushing the older work off the tape, deleting the older more fundamental structures on which the newer animations were based. When this came to light the panic started, the cold sweat ran and an emergency meeting was called.

Today backing up your files is easy. Many online services can backup your data to their own servers and provide a guarantee of data security and quality of service. If you cannot spare the budget for a paid service or would like to organise your own data the UK Data service and ready.gov  provide guidance on how to back up data and what to do if you lose it.

Back at Pixar, with the Toy story 2 project and the fate of the entire company hanging by a thread, one employee shouted “I have a machine back at my house”. It so happened that the Supervising Technical Director on Toy Story 2 had been returning from maternity leave, and working on the film from home, where she had an almost complete copy of the film saved on her hard drive. A team was sent out to collect the machine which held the fate of the entire company on its memory banks. Pixar didn’t go bankrupt that day, but went on to produce some of the most magical films of the last decade. The story could have ended very differently.

Will you be this lucky?

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How Prepared is your Business?

Any business can experience a serious incident that prevents it from carrying out its business as normal. For example cyber-crime, power failures, floods, fire, major transport disruption, or even acts of terrorism.  It may not happen to you directly but it may be an occurrence your business becomes caught up in and affected by.

‘The Federation of Small Businesses and Climate Ready at the Environment Agency found that a third of businesses in the UK have no business continuity insurance and nearly 60% have no plans in place to deal with extreme weather – despite two thirds having been affected by snow, drought or floods in the last three years.’ Source: BITC.

For small businesses in particular the impact of a serious incident can be devastating. To help a business cope in an emergency it is advisable to prepare a continuity plan. A business continuity plan describes the practical steps your business needs to follow if a particular problem arises.

As FedEx rather bluntly  put it, ‘Do more than cross your fingers’!

Cyber-crime has been identified as a growing problem but help and advice is available for businesses. Check out the events programme at Denbighshire’s website HERE. Or contact the Superfast Broadband team at Business Wales. See their recent BLOG post on steps to help protect your assets.

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However cyber-crime is just one example and businesses should prepare by having an overall business continuity plan in place. This makes a business better prepared to cope in a crisis, and should help speed up the recovery process making the businesses more resilient.

The Business in the Community website has practical advice and a series of hints and tips and ‘ten minute templates’ that are aimed at small and medium sized enterprises. Things such as keeping a list of emergency contacts and back-up copies of key information are a starting point. You can find more help and information HERE.

Business Wales can also provide advice on Business Continuity Planning and they can be contacted on 03000 6 03000 or visit the website http://www.businesswales.gov.uk/.

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Welsh in Business

The Welsh in Business pilot project has made a big difference to a number of small businesses around Denbighshire. By bringing an awareness of how bilingualism can benefit a business’ bottom line the Welsh in Business project has produced a change which we hope will last. Here is just some of the positive feedback we received:

 

In September 2016 the Economic & Business Development Team commissioned IAITH: the Welsh centre for language planning to deliver  a ‘Welsh in Business’ pilot project that aimed to test the business benefits of bilingualism by promoting the use of Welsh as a business tool to improve economic performance. The pilot project worked with businesses in Prestatyn, Llangollen and St Asaph for a limited period of time in order to understand the need and appetite for Welsh language assistance within businesses. It will be following up with those businesses later in 2017 to test what difference the actions taken by them have made to their bottom line.

Early finding s from the pilot project suggest that the Welsh language gives businesses an overall competitive advantage through being able to communicate bilingually with customers. More specific benefits revealed by the pilot include:

  • The use of Welsh provides a business with a unique quality of authenticity. If you see a product or service which relies upon location for its value, using Welsh will reinforce the feeling of authenticity.
  • It is courteous and often essential to provide Welsh language translation in a business for those whose customers’ first language is Welsh.
  • Speaking Welsh and providing Welsh signage can open up new markets.
  • Use of the Welsh language shows an advocacy for local produce and can create associations with wider attempts to market Welsh / local produce. E.g. LoveLiveLocal, Welsh Lamb etc.

 

As part of the Welsh in Business project IAITH undertook a number of actions in order to firstly understand the amount of Welsh spoken in our towns and then recruit businesses eager to learn how bilingualism can benefit their bottom line.

Face to Face initial meetings within each town gave the project a baseline from which to work and gave a feeling for how Welsh is already being used in our county.  This work began to give useful insights from the start, indicating that many businesses already understood the connection between Welsh language and an authentic tourist experience, but many did not have the language skills or confidence to use them in order to make a difference in their business.

The project then recruited businesses from each town to take part in a number of Welsh language and business workshops focusing in the spoken language, bilingual signage in store and use of the Welsh language online and on social media. These sessions brought a number of new ideas to many businesses and left them with tools to continue to use in their day to day business.

These workshops concluded with a final workshop open to everyone as part of March for Business.

 

Since these workshops concluded a number of the lessons learned by businesses have been implemented. The most impressive is from Oriel house which is a hotel located on the Upper Denbigh road near to St Asaph. The staff in this hotel now wear the cymraeg lanyard to show that guests can converse in Welsh, and Oriel house now also offers a Welsh wedding package as a new service.

 

There is now a new programme designed to support and deliver Welsh language training for the workforce.

 

Work Welsh offers fully-funded, flexible Welsh language training. From beginners to fluent speakers, Work Welsh has something for everyone.

 

Work Welsh consists of four elements:

 

Information and advice for employers.

Online welcome/reception courses.

Intensive courses.

Tailored residential courses to improve confidence.