What would we do if we lost our internet connection for a long period of time? It’s practically unfathomable in today’s connected world. However, events over the past few years have taught us the unthinkable DOES happen and the devastation it can cause for unprepared Canadian small businesses. The most critical lesson we learned is the importance of having a contingency plan.
Research from Atlas VPN revealed Canada would lose about $576,611,171 each day without the internet. Globally, the losses would be $43 billion, with the losses in China ($10 billion) and the US ($11 billion) accounting for half of that.
“The data is based on the NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool,” says Atlas VPN. “It estimates the economic impact of internet disruption, mobile data outage, or app restriction using indicators from the World Bank, ITU, Eurostat, and the U.S. Census.”
At first glance, it seems unlikely that a national internet outage would happen in Canada. The most imminent threat of it happening comes from cyberwarfare.
“Cyberwarfare is the use of cyber attacks against an enemy state,” explains Wikipedia. “Causing comparable harm to actual warfare and/or disrupting vital computer systems.”
The country-crippling potential of cyberwarfare makes it almost inevitable, we just don’t know when it will happen.
The loss of internet connection for long periods is more likely to happen locally, due to natural disasters like earthquakes or fires. Even if you don’t believe cyberwarfare is a real risk, local outages do happen and having a contingency plan for any lengthy internet outage is essential.
Canada’s Internet Dependency
The most recent internet usage statistics show most Canadians are living a highly connected lifestyle.
“Year over year, various trends in technology reflect a smarter and more connected lifestyle, benefiting both the younger and older generations,” says Statistics Canada. “The year 2022 was no exception, with internet use among Canadians aged 15 years and older reaching 95%, up from 92% in 2020. The largest increase was seen among Canadians aged 75 years and older, up from 62% in 2020 to 72% in 2022.”
From banking to ‘smart’ devices, Canadians are deeply dependent on their internet connection. Small businesses across virtually all sectors are even more dependent on it, at least from the viewpoint of permanent damage and losses.
Make Mass Internet Outages Part of Your Contingency Plan
“Simply put, a contingency plan is an action plan designed to help organizations respond to a potential future incident,” explains Hubspot. “Think of it as a backup plan, or plan B to guide organizations through a worst-case scenario.”
The majority of contingency plans revolve around business continuity. The most effective business continuity plans begin with questions and realistic scenarios. Brainstorm with your team or ask for input in your favourite business groups.
A few questions you might pose are:
- What would you do if the internet was out for a long period of time?
- Are your communications also reliant on the internet through VoIP? What if cell service is also down? In 2022, 84 percent of Canadians had access to the internet through a mobile data plan, and about 600,000 people reported having a mobile data plan but no home internet connection.
- How would you continue to generate revenue?
- Is your offline payment processing reliant on internet connections and cell service?
- Is your business banking reliant on your internet connection? What about payments from customers? Statistics Canada reports 78 percent of Canadians used general online banking in 2022, and 16 percent used the internet to manage investments (stocks, mutual funds, and cryptocurrencies).
- What percentage of your revenue comes from online sales?
- Do you have any remote staff in other countries who could continue operations?
- Do you have a backup of your website ready to go if your website host loses the information in an outage?
While we all may be victims of circumstance in the event of a national internet outage, how fast we recover will depend heavily on how prepared we are.
The threat of a national internet outage should also be something the Canadian government is concerned about. However, the sheer size of the potential impact is enough to make them procrastinate. Ask your government representatives what plans are in place for this emergency situation. Our entire economy will depend on it.
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In 25 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and ecommerce websites. Her book, 7 Recession Proof Online Businesses to Start From Home, is available on Amazon.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.