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Plan Now to Prevent Data Disaster Later

Companies need a disaster recovery plan so that they can continue to deliver shipments of export cargo and import cargo in international trade.

Plan Now to Prevent Data Disaster Later

What would be the impact on your business if the roof blew off your building? If your offices filled with water? If you suddenly had no access to your IT systems?

Two of our customers found themselves in this situation recently when a tornado struck south of Sydney, Australia. While not every business has to weather natural disaster, asking these questions does provide a pretty strong incentive to assess your own disaster recovery (DR) plans.

We can talk at length about the pros and cons of paper versus automation, of running on-premises or cloud-based systems, of investing in processes or just winging it, but only a real world example can put it painfully into perspective. When the tornado ripped through the industrial park without warning, it put two of our customers out of action. One of them was only down for a matter of minutes, while the other took several weeks to recover. What made the difference in their recovery time?

When the tornado hit, one company had its supply chain operational software in the cloud, while the other had all its systems, including backup, on premise. Within hours, one of them had automatically redistributed all data entry, customer service, billing, and administration tasks to its branches in Brisbane and Melbourne. All jobs were simply reassigned to the next available agent in a seamless process that kept their customers operating. Employees worked from home in the following days, through their secure log-in to the company’s complete file set. There was no disruption to its business, no damage to its reputation.

The other company lost everything. They scrambled to find temporary accommodations, buy new IT equipment and resorted to handling business manually on paper, effectively putting its operations out of action. Ultimately, they also had to restore their customers’ faith in their service.

Yes, there were dramas for both companies as they had to relocate and fit out new offices. But guess which company simply set up new equipment, logged in, and resumed business as usual: the one with, or the one without the cloud-hosted platform?

By taking the time in advance to have a plan and set up their workflows, the company operating in a cloud environment was able to quickly, easily, and accurately redistribute their jobs.

With businesses now so dependent on IT, guaranteeing continuity is critical to survival. Many of us still know how freight moves using paper-based systems. We still know how to write con notes and pick orders. But maybe some of the new generation doesn’t. Because they’ve grown up on automated systems, they may not have the old knowledge to fall back on in a crisis.

And your customers may know just as little about how to deal with system losses. So much of their business depends on having real-time insight into the activities you’re carrying out on their behalf.

Once you’ve developed a DR plan, it has to be tested. Have you tested the data you’re backing up? Is it picking up new data sets as you add to any processes? Exactly where are your backups – ideally not on a set of disks on the shelf above your servers.

Creating a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, and testing it regularly to maintain its currency, is a large investment in effort. Time is money, but avoiding that commitment could lead to real pain. It’s your own insurance plan to minimize disruption. No one would avoid insuring their trucks or other physical assets, but many don’t insure their technology platforms with the same determination.

If you want to minimize the DR plan development effort – for your IT needs at least – then a move to the cloud largely shifts your risk to the professionals for whom uptime is the core responsibility, effectively outsourcing the cost and management of your business continuity.

Whichever approach you choose, have an effective disaster recovery plan, so in case of emergency your revenue won’t be swept away if your business is ever hit by a disaster. Do what you can now to ensure your business stays up and running, even if the unexpected happens.

Mark Connell is a senior logistics architect at WiseTech Global, a creator and developer of cloud-based software solutions for the logistics industries based in Sydney, Australia.

Deploying software to automate business processes helps logistics providers handle more shipments of export cargo and import cargo in international trade.

Flip the Switch from Paper to Automation

Visibility into every aspect of a transport or warehouse business is essential for keeping the operation humming and pinpointing its strengths and weaknesses. But shuffling through paper files and Excel spreadsheets only slows things down.

Today’s Transportation Management Systems (TMS) and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) provide the automation needed to put an end to paper-based practices once and for all, and they’re the only means to get ahead of the accountability and compliance regimes that can lock up the operations of every player in the total supply chain, from producer to consumer.

There are plenty of million-dollar operations running on paper and personal contacts, but every logistics provider loses profit when they can’t press a button and quickly see the current status of every job or the throughput in regional depots.

Paper-based, manual billing is the standout example of lost money because of its extreme inefficiency and high susceptibility to error. And because it can’t provide any real-time visibility into clients, inventory, assets, or management practices, you’ll be using a lot more labor and assets than you need to. You’ll be unable to offer customers the high levels of real-time service that the market demands. It will be very difficult to sell to or merge with another operation if the facts of the business are tricky to produce.

A cloud subscription-based TMS or WMS makes it possible to measure what’s truly happening in your business. If you can see what your vehicles are doing and measure your picking performance, you can improve productivity. If things start to go wrong, you can generate some onscreen reports, drill into the exact problem, and fix it before it takes hold.

Many firms are quite happy to put on a couple more employees, or buy a $200,000 Mac truck, but these same firms hesitate to spend $300 per month on a platform that could transform their entire operation for the better. The power comes when you can see what an automated maintenance system can do for the life of that truck, or what route-optimization can do for the profitability it hauls in to your business.

Massive upfront costs and lengthy, complex implementations have long discouraged moves to new systems. But with the maturing of flexible, affordable cloud technologies, there’s nothing holding back even the smallest operator.

Quick returns come from incremental implementations rather than all-in-one. Automation is now low-risk, and there are no long term contracts tying you down. Even training is a completely different concept because it’s all online, accessed at your convenience.

End-to-end accountability forces the pace to automation. Complying with new regulations and laws doesn’t need to be difficult or disruptive to the bottom line. Checklists and workflows built into your software help your business move forward uninterrupted. By moving now and automating as you go, on your own terms, you’ll be ahead of the curve, rather than rushing to meet government deadlines at the last minute.

Whether transporters and warehouses are being driven by a government policy, a customer demand, or a self-determination to tighten up the business bottom line, the move is definitely towards automation. And when you stack up all the benefits, why wouldn’t you throw out the stacks of paper that slow down your business?


Mark Connell is a senior logistics architect at WiseTech Global, a creator and developer of cloud-based software solutions headquartered in Sydney, Australia.