Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy New Year?

One of the main downsides of running a small business is the lack of opportunity to take long holidays.  

One of the best times is in the week between Christmas and the New Year – when most of our customers are either closed or operating a skeleton staff.  

Like most in the printing industry we close down from Christmas Eve until the first Monday of the New Year.

We rarely lose any business.  A few customers in the travel industry want to get their mailshots out and we still get the lady wanting an enlarged copy of her knitting pattern.
Sadly, orders of service are much in demand at this time of year.

Although when we had our bespoke funeral printing website for the printing of Orders of Service, we had to be prepared for any urgent orders that could arise. 

This year we probably lost about three online print orders which we were unable to fulfil.  In my view this was a small sacrifice for the benefits associated with taking a break. 
I am sorry if any inconvenience was caused to those who did place an order and subsequently cancelled, but…

Everyone needs time out taking stock of the last twelve months and planning what to do in the months ahead.  And sitting on a Moroccan beach soaking up the sun, drinking with friends and reading my annual paperback (the paper version not on one of those Kindle things!) – resulted in the perfect rest.

Unfortunately, things have a nasty habit of “bringing you down to earth” rather quickly.
At this point you realise how dependent we all are on technology.  

Our broadband supplier had decided to migrate to a new system without informing us – so the first thing to happen on the chilly Monday morning after unlocking the doors was to find that there was no Internet connection.

We spent about three hours re-starting machines, re-setting the routers and trying everything we could with our limited IT knowledge – but all to no avail!

Eventually we decided to call our IT specialist to help.  After going through the same checks as we had undertaken but more professionally – without hitting the computers and pulling the connections in and out – came to the conclusion it was not at our end but the problem lay with the broadband supplier.

In our case the fault lay with Shellcom Communications (there – they have been named and shamed!) – who decided to put their phones on standby and ignore all incoming calls whilst they sorted things out.  But we struggled to get any messages to them for the next three days – so we followed instructions and were sent a new system password to connect to new servers they had migrated to over the holiday break.

In the meantime, we were travelling to and from our homes to copy over files and get them printed on a regular basis (fortunately I only live a couple of miles from the business).

We could survive doing this but it would drive me mad if it went on for a long time.  So we “piggy-backed” onto some local person who had an unsecured wi-fi connection.

Then our digital mono printer went into self-destruct mode – the engineer arrived within the four hour target but decided a new part needed to be ordered.  We later realised we had this part in stock for any such emergency.

So we had no mono printing for 24 hours and quite a few large jobs that had built up in the first few days back at work.

Then in an attempt to configure new IP addresses for the routers our network crashed and we were unable to communicate with any of our printing machines.  A small disaster was becoming a catastrophe in our terms!

We couldn’t output printing plates for our offset print operation or complete any digital print orders.

At this point you feel like just walking out and going back to the beach.

The moral of this little story is always to have a contingency plan for every eventuality.  The modern terminology (which I detest!) is a risk assessment.  Always be prepared for the worst eventuality.

Despite being without broadband we can manage to carry on our business.  It could have been a lot worse – for example, I can recall some of our colleagues in a similar business who  have had to manage without any power or had to overcome floods, when they returned to work.
All I can say is that whatever has caused our problem there is no need to get stressed about it. 
On Friday afternoon, we eventually identified the problem.  The password they had sent had a single digit error and this compounded the problem through the network.  It was all sorted and we could enjoy the weekend.
But it confirms my view that 2015 may be a tough year – but we are now ready for whatever is thrown at us!

Visit Direct2Print for information on Digital Printing.

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