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January 26, 2007

Communications Continuity Planning

By Max Schroeder

 

Late in September and in the wake of the recent hurricane disasters on the United States Gulf Coast, and the well-documented communications failures in New York City on September 11, 2001, I contacted Rich Tehrani, to discuss how leading industry practitioners could contribute in an effort to avoid such problems in future disasters. It was decided that TMC and the Enterprise Communications Association (ECA) would host a press conference and planning meeting at the Los Angeles INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & Expo Fall 2005 to determine industry interest in creating a forum to discuss solutions for ensuring communications in the wake of a disaster.

In a pre-show announcement, Rich Tehrani, a foremost expert on VoIP, commented, I have mentioned before that I am proud to be involved in the VoIP industry as we are giving back to the world. We are helping the underprivileged and we are allowing those people who could not communicate before to now speak with one another.

Certainly the activity at the show validated Richs observation. As soon as the conference opened, it soon became obvious that the vendors were not only interested in supporting this initiative, but many were already engaged. Despite the last minute announcement, some of the exhibitors arrived equipped with products (hardware, software, mobile units) specifically designed to address the disaster preparedness marketplace including Sphere Comunications, Inveneo and Telephony@Work.

Sphere Communications
Sphericall VoIP technology offers a scalable, portable communication infrastructure with multiple access gateways to the PSTN via VPN, T1/E1 and satellite. The combination of terrestrial and space-based interfaces provide for both traditional communications continuity using backup sites and mobile continuity with mobile satellite units.

Inveneo
Inveneo is a non-profit entity that has developed and deployed a Linux VoIP solution powered by a combination of solar and bicycle power. The original concept was to employ the units to connect remote villages using VoIP and wireless technology. A perfect fit for third-world countries. However, when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, virtually the entire company packed up and moved to areas ravaged by Katrina. Working in combination with the Army, who provided the company with generators (no pedaling required), access to a T3 plus climbing gear enabling them to climb poles to mount their wireless devices, Inveneo helped set up communications for emergency workers and other organizations. Their solution, as exhibited in L.A., was compact and utilized recycled materials to keep the cost low enough for deployment in the third world.


Telephony@Work
Certainly contact centers are critical to many organizations during a crisis. Products from another exhibitor, Telephony@Work, specifically address this market. I visited one of their client sites about two years back to attend a seminar on Disaster Preparedness. Their client was the Municipal Credit Union (MCU) of New York and the location was 22 Cortlandt Street New York, NY. The building also fronted Church Street directly across from the World Trade Center site. Looking down on the WTC site from the eighth floor of the MCU offices definitely put disaster preparedness in perspective. It was very evident why the MCU had established a mirrored site in an adjacent state. The second site ensures that their contact center design meets the 3 key stages of a major disaster plan preparedness, continuity of operations, and recovery.

Disaster Planning Communications Forum
Recent disasters in the USA have focused attention on the issue of government preparedness and almost totally ignored the enterprise. Yet, keeping the enterprise running is a critical factor in bringing a community or geographic area back to normalcy. The Disaster Planning Communications Forum (DPCF) is in the early stages of development and is looking for members to contribute time to launching and defining the organizational structure. One key suggestion presented thus far is that the organization becomes a valued resource for enterprises and government agencies when seeking information on how to prepare for a disaster. A second suggestion is that the forum should develop a resource guide outlining how to construct a disaster plan. The guide would include case studies and a listing of companies and products that address this critical market.

The above examples were selected because they cover a broad spectrum of disaster planning. Combined, they address the needs of everyone, from the third world to the largest and most sophisticated cities in the world. Many more exhibitors displayed solutions that can be incorporated in disaster planning. Perhaps your companys products and experience also fit into that equation? If so, you should participate in the Disaster Planning Communications Forum (www.tmcnet.com/DPCF). Take the time to visit the site now. Send your commitment to participate or any questions to: maxschroeder@tmcnet.com. IT

Max Schroeder is the senior vice president of FaxCore Inc. (www.faxcore.com) and a Member of the Board of the Enterprise Communications Association (ECA; www.encomm.org), an industry forum promoting the deployment of voice, video, and data communications solutions in the enterprise. Schroeder is Chair of the Media Relations Committee and, in that capacity, is the ECA liaison for TMC.

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