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What Does This Mean Today?

We believe that the specter of terrorism since 9/11, combined with the increasing frequency of natural disasters, must fundamentally change the mindset of the corporate contingency planner. Planning for natural disasters is now arguably in the province of the private-sector planner, much as telecommunications entered the planner's scope of responsibility in the 1980s and 1990s. Just as demand from the private sector, particularly the financial services community, drove innovative new telecommunications solutions and dramatically redefined telecom networks, those same forces will drive and refine responses to natural disasters. New operating and security standards and best practices will be developed, but this time for mitigation against natural disasters and terrorism.

Although disaster recovery planning as a science and a profession continues to evolve, we can draw parallels with the past. We are literally starting from scratch in many respects with regard to natural disasters. For example, we have sought out a few brain trusts for inclusion in this series that may be unfamiliar to the typical corporate contingency planner. One noteworthy contributor mentioned in past articles is the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC). Formed after Hurricane Iniki devastated the Hawaiian Island of Kauai in 1992, the PDC has evolved into "information central" with regard to information on disasters, which span the spectrum from earthquakes and seismic events to hurricanes, typhoons, and tsunamis.

If information about disasters were the only requirement, the job would be easy. We could all just sit on the web and mine it for free. But there would be no way to validate which information was truly accurate and useful. Even if we could prove validity, the question of how to use the information would still present difficulty. Those of us who have immersed ourselves in web-based research know that when it comes to information, it's not how much you have but how you use it. When projecting how natural disasters might affect your organization, it's important to focus on the kinds of things you can control with preplanning, and on preparations you can reasonably afford.

We hope you are now convinced that commercial organizations must consider the issue of natural disasters and terrorism in crafting recovery plans. In the conclusion of this series, we'll look at some sobering evidence of the urgency of this need.

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