When to call a snow day

I have worked with many companies that aren’t really sure when to close the office due to a snow day. Forecasts are imperfect for sure, but here are some following experiences where they might wanted to have investigated further. All of these happened when there was a winter advisory and usually when the state declared a state of emergency.

  • Came in to work because there was no notification of a snow day. I was the only one there. In the next hour only 3 other people showed up. An hour later, the office was closed. The HR person apologized and “didn’t believe it was going to be this bad.” One of my coworkers at the time explained how her car slide and did a 360 in the parking lot.
  • Driving to work the weather was just terrible. Lots of snow on the ground and when I switched lanes, the work vehicle I was given slid into the side of the road and almost went off into the median. I called my boss and said I’m taking a vacation day and went back home. Less than an hour later the office was closed and I still had a vacation day charged to me.
  • A hurricane was forecast to come in the same day the board was meeting. Rather than change the board meeting, they had it during the day a hurricane was happening. Almost everyone was remote that day but some people who lived close, and it was crazy they were traveling as well. I was put up at a hotel across the street to support this. So in gusting winds that were knocking things over, I had to walk to work from my rented hotel room.
  • The weather was bad and it was -20. I was at work and my boss told me to finish something and then go home. When I finished I was the only car in the parking lot and buried under a ton of snow. Fortunately I was able to drive out but it was just crazy that I was told to finish something before I could leave. If there is an issue of safety, things can wait.

I am not complaining about these experiences, but rather sharing them to show that erring on the side of caution is better than trying to get the last bit of work out of someone.

Doctor’s office using Box

I had my regular eye exam and in making small talk with the doctor I discovered that his office uses Box. This is fascinating to me. It used to be that small business might buy a Windows file server, or if they were more advanced a NAS file storage device. Now they are wisely going online to get more reliable service and performance and probably a lower cost as well.

Doctor's office using BoxThe reason I am sharing this is that without a formal IT person in a small business, most small business tend to do what is easiest with IT. They tend to prefer to outsource their IT infrastructure as much as they can. I have worked with many small businesses and see this all the time. The problem with that is that often what they don’t know about IT can end up costing them a great deal of money.

I am not criticizing my doctor and think that Box is a great choice for file storage. However it is impossible for a non-IT person to be aware of the risks of their decision making. For example, if their network connection goes down they are sunk. What you can do with many online services is have a hybrid model where there is a device on your network that gets synchronized as well as the online version. So if the internet goes down, you are still able to work. I have never worked anywhere that has used this hybrid approach although it is clearly the superior one. Managers say that they don’t need the redundancy because Internet connections are reliable, but my experience shows that too often Internet is not reliable.

For example, I have worked in many companies where the Internet goes down regularly. Not because of a fault of the company, but their internet provider. The last company I worked for had their remote offices go down all the time. Their T1 and fiber connections to those offices would get cut, and those offices were not able to work. This was a huge expense and one that was entirely avoidable if some modest investments had been done.

You can get almost 100% reliability in IT systems, but you need someone who is experienced to help guide you in details.