Disaster Recovery Planning for Web-Enabled Services
But what if your organization never answers the phone at all? Think about companies that do all their business online. eBay comes to mind. I’ve bought and sold hundreds of items on eBay and never once spoken to anyone. For many companies, there’s no storefront and no store phone—the Web becomes both. Welcome to the third concern for telecommunications-dependent organizations: the Internet.
Fortunately, at its essence the Internet itself is glorified, resurrected U.S. military technology from the 1970s. The idea at that time was that if the Soviets got mad enough at us, all of our telecommunications hubs might quickly find themselves in the upper atmosphere. This possibility presented an obvious problem for the war planners of the time: They needed a means of communications that didn’t depend on hub-and-spoke technology, but rather used lots of different paths. (In a true hub-and-spoke arrangement, obviously, if you take out the hub, nobody can talk to anybody.) Also necessary was a protocol that was a little bit "smart" in that it didn’t have to depend on intelligence in the hub to route messages. One descriptive term is "Distributed Intelligence with Nobody in Charge" (kind of like my office). This concept became Internet Protocol (IP).
If our military spending has ever generated such a thing as a peace dividend, IP would have to be a top contender. If your organization uses VoIP (Voice Over IP), for example, IP gives your phones a high degree of recoverability. It’s possible to unplug an IP phone and plug it in again anyplace where high-speed Internet service exists, and begin answering your calls again. Hotels everywhere are installing high-speed Internet services—that’s a lot of potential recovery centers.
Similarly, servers containing critical data can be reestablished at the same kinds of locations. Unlike many mainframes of the past, which required specific environmental conditions to operate, today most servers will do fine in a cool, dry place with halfway decent power and access to the Internet. This new reality again opens many recovery possibilities.
But it may not be that easy in all circumstances. What if no hotels are available, such in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana? Or no gas to get to one, such as in the days preceding Hurricane Rita in Texas? These are just two of the "gotchas" that can surface unless you plan ahead. On the other hand, by taking only the three small—and inexpensive—steps described in this article, just look at how you can improve your command and control after a disaster. And the best part of all is that most of these recommendations has already been paid for by someone else!
Many other issues must be addressed in a telecommunications recovery plan—so many, in fact, that I intend to devote the next two articles to discussing them in detail. Consider this: A few years ago, you would be reading this article in a magazine. Today, you’re reading it on the Web. You didn’t see a lot of online reading back then, but now look at how convenient it is for us to find one another and discuss this important topic. This publisher’s business has changed dramatically in the last few years. The question I put to you is this: What has changed with your business? I’ll bet you can count more than a few things.
I hope you’ll find this article and the next few in this series to be useful. Remember, even the smallest and least expensive steps you take can add immeasurably to the survivability of your company after a disaster and to the well-being of everyone concerned. Best of luck to you, and stay tuned for more tips in upcoming articles.
Leo A. Wrobel has more than 25 years of experience with a host of firms engaged in banking, manufacturing, telecommunications services, and government. An active author and technical futurist, he has published 10 books and more than 400 trade articles on a wide variety of technical subjects. Leo served 10 years as an elected mayor and city councilman (but says he is better now). A sought-after speaker, he has lectured throughout the United States and overseas and has appeared on several television news programs. Leo is presently CEO of Dallas-based TelLAWCom Labs Inc. He welcomes your comments; call (214) CALL-LEO or email him at email@example.com.
Portions of this article were adapted with permission from Leo Wrobel’s books The Definitive Guide to Business Resumption Planning © Artech House Books and Business Resumption Planning © Auerbach Publishing.