By Raeford Liebenberg, manager at Silver Moon, a Galix company
South Africa’s well-documented economic hardship has been perpetuated by its current energy provision woes.
Loadshedding undoubtedly places strain on daily operations, however, with more people now Working from Home (WFH) it has added an additional layer of complexity.
Managing the output
When the country is in the midst of loadshedding, each area in the respective metropoles gets its turn according to a set schedule and stage. And yes, this makes sense in shedding the load but when three of your team members come from three different metropoles in three different provinces, it gets tricky.
How do you ensure that all employees and clients are available at an allocated time, circumventing scheduled loadshedding and the resultant connectivity and power supply issues?
It’s not just a productivity problem
Also, loadshedding does not only lead to a loss in productivity but is also potentially harmful to equipment such as notebooks, desktops and connectivity as surges, when the power is restored, can be incredibly damaging.
Furthermore, brownouts are equally harmful as the equipment is receiving a low current (voltage is too low), which is often the case when the grid is under pressure.
The above is further exacerbated by constrained cash flow due to COVID-19; companies and individuals simply don’t have the money to invest in state-of-the-art alternative energy sources or new equipment.
What you can control
Where does this leave South Africans particularly when loadshedding is announced suddenly and there is a scramble to ensure laptops and phones are charged, crossing fingers that the closest cellular tower’s backup battery will last?
A good place to start is to evaluate what steps can be implemented; and steps that are practical and – importantly – attainable. The first logical step is to – if possible – backup work files and charge laptops etc. It might seem like a no-brainer but often we lose track of time and are caught unaware.
Second, if you are WFH, start looking at alternative energy sources such as an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS), which isn’t overly expensive, and depending on the specifications, can power, at the very least, your laptop and connectivity devices.
A UPS also has a second, especially important, function.
It will protect your UPS-connected hardware against power surges and brownouts as it has been designed to regulate the energy supply and take the ‘hit’ in the event of power surges.
If possible, also try and upgrade aged hardware. Newer options today are designed to be less susceptible to complete hardware damage and usually, it’s just the power unit, in insolation, that is affected.
This is far cheaper to replace than your entire laptop or notebook.
During loadshedding, the idea is to stay connected to the Internet.
Currently, South Africa has various connectivity options available but fibre and cellular network connectivity such 4G and 5G seem to be leading the charge.
The question, therefore, begs what connectivity is the best when you’re stuck without power? Fibre providers typically have the necessary backup power systems in place to ensure that their service stays uninterrupted.
Here, however, you will need a UPS or other alternative energy source to ensure that your fibre Optical Network Terminal (ONT) and router are connected to provide Internet access.
Cellular options such as 4G and 5G are also quite readily available options, however, the network does start experiencing lag and packet loss if it becomes too congested, which is often the case during loadshedding.
Also, when loadshedding is persistent, the individual cellular towers don’t have enough time to recharge their backup battery systems, again resulting in poor or no coverage.
From the above, it is apparent that there are some steps that can be taken to overcome some of the woes of loadshedding.
Businesses not only need to ensure they take the time to understand when their employees will be affected by power interruptions, but they also need to ensure that their hardware is protected.
This can be done by asking a technology provider for their expertise on the matter, helping the company understand what technology to acquire to achieve business continuity as WFH becomes the norm.