No one in the United States is likely to forget last year's devastating hurricane season anytime soon, especially the residents of the Gulf Coast. This year, experts predict another above-average season with anywhere between 13-16 named storms.
Don't worry, we haven't switched to forecasting the weather, but we can tell you which way the wind's blowing when it comes to protecting your business data.
Recognizing the toll that these storms took on its small business community and on the state's economic health, the Florida Chamber of Commerce recently announced its Digital Disaster Preparedness service. This e-mail protection service, developed in conjunction with AppRiver, a Gulf Breeze, Fla.-based e-mail security services provider, is now available for free to all businesses in Florida during the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.
The service is available to any company that has its own Internet domain name. Once a company signs up online, AppRiver monitors the company's e-mail server. Should the server fail, the service will reroute incoming and outgoing e-mail to one of its data centers in Texas, Virginia or England, where it's stored until it can be delivered. The service also includes free virus and spam filtering.
"Some small businesses can go without e-mail for up to several days," says Scott Cutler, vice-president of AppRiver. "But for other companies, e-mail is mission-critical, and any delay could put them out of business." For that reason, the service offers companies a choice of e-mail delivery options.
- AppRiver stores the e-mail on its servers until the impacted company gets its e-mail server back online
- AppRiver reroutes the company's e-mail to a second e-mail server the company keeps in a remote location
- AppRiver routes the e-mail into a Web-based system so that the company and send and receive e-mail from any computer with an Internet connection
- For companies that use Microsoft Exchange, AppRiver creates a Web-based system with the same look and feel as Exchange
Sign Me Up
You can sign up for the service by clicking on the Digital Disaster Preparedness button on the Florida Chamber of Commerce Web site or on AppRiver's site. The process essentially filling out a form and clicking submit -- takes about 10 minutes.
While it makes good business sense to be proactive and sign up long before trouble strikes, Cutler notes, "This is a great service for procrastinators." By which he means if the forecast indicates a storm is three days away, companies can still sign up and have their service account activated.
"The whole activation process takes about 30 minutes," says Cutler. "We send each company that signs up an e-mail instructions on how to login to access their e-mail, and we'll hold or reroute their e-mail as long as it takes for them to get up and running again."
The Digital Disaster Preparedness service is the same service that AppRiver offers all of its customers, one of which is the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Cutler says the idea for the free service came about as part of an ongoing dialog that the two agencies had on how to best prepare for the next hurricane season.
"We decided that we could help other small businesses by taking this item off of their plate. It gives them one less thing to worry about," he said. "This is just the right thing to do."
The Florida Chamber and AppRiver plan to make this free service available every year from June 1 through Nov. 30.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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