As the president of an online Software-as-a-Service company, I have been touting the advantages of choosing online services for a long time. In this economy, it's easy to focus on cost savings, sharing case studies of customers who've saved 5-figures a year by bringing more business services online. It's also easy to get people excited about the convenience factor of a mobile payroll service in our new smart phone society.

As the great blizzard of 2011 hit much of the country this week, I'm reminded that mobile access is not just a convenience – it's a necessity if you don't want to risk losing business and disappointing customers.

As SurePayroll prepared here in the north suburbs of Chicago for the worst winter storm since '67, we sent many employees home early on Tuesday to avoid dangerous road conditions and ensured everyone had what they needed to work remotely over the next two days. It's the first time in our 11-year history we've had 'snow days,' but because we naturally choose mobile software-as-a-service solutions to run our business, it wasn't difficult. Since all of our employees could plug in from home, we are able to keep our employees safe with very little effect on our customers and productivity.

Whether you're in blizzard-laden Boston or earthquake-threatened LA, it's important to know how mobile your business really is. Is it just you and your smart phone that can run your business at anytime from anywhere? How about your employees?

The SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard revealed for the second month in a row that hiring is down slightly (-0.5% from December) and wages are up slightly (+0.5% from December), pointing to the trend of business owners increasingly relying on current staff to cover the extra workload until they feel it's safe to hire again. So if you're like most businesses, you don't have temporary workers trained and ready to pick up where you leave off, especially not in an emergency. All business owners will be the wiser to arm their employees with what they need in order to work whenever and wherever they need to.

If your employees aren't already mobile, here are a few things you can do so they will be:

  • Provide employees access to the right equipment: It can be as simple as having a couple of extra iPads with a 3G subscription on hand – you never want to hear, 'My home Internet connection is out.'
  • Use software that is hosted online and doesn't require using a  computer in the office: Think payroll, business finance systems, customer relationship management systems – anything you or your employees can log into from any computer or smart phone.
  • Have a plan: Your staff should be cross-trained, able to step in for any business-critical missions and know exactly what they should do if they are unable to come into the office.

Having a staff that is ready to go mobile at any time will not only help you keep things running through an emergency – like the great blizzard of 2011 – it can ensure optimum productivity during times you're relying on current employees to pick up the extra work load. After all, if you're asking Mary to work an extra 10 hours again this week, wouldn't it be nice if she can do so from home?