The March CP 101 column focused on the short-term benefits of IP Communications (IPC) plus the role IPC can play in disaster preparedness. The column was based on a paper prepared for resellers by Forsythe Technology, Inc., a provider of continuity and recovery solutions. This months column will present the case for using experienced vendors, resellers and consulting firms to create and implement your business continuity plan.
The Big Three
Reason #1 Resources
Developing a quality business continuity plan for the first time can be a major task for a company of any size. However, small companies generally do not have the bandwidth to establish a Business Continuity Planning Committee that is also tasked to develop and implement the plan. Outsourcing this project will allow your company to stay focused on your core business.
Reason #2 Experience
The saying You never get a second chance to make a first impression applies here also. If you do not maintain continuity on the first attempt, your plan has failed totally. Resellers specializing in business continuity will help your company develop a plan based on experience rather than theory.
Reason #3 Cost savings
There are many choices to be made in developing and implementing a continuity plan. Experienced resellers will already have a library of information that your business continuity team would have to recreate by investing long hours in research. Simply guiding your company through choices like as do we need a hot site and a cold site? or would managed services provide the best solution? is a prime example of how experience can help to guide you to a reliable low-cost solution.
Where To Start?
Step 1 Get Management Commitment
The most critical aspect of developing a business continuity plan is getting the commitment of top management.
Step 2 Establish a Business Continuity Planning Committee.
In a small organization, this will be a part-time responsibility. One person should be designated as Recovery Coordinator or Contingency Planner. The title is not critical, but the job responsibilities are vital to the success of the project.
Step 3 Operational priorities and risk assessment.
Not all business operations may be critical and may not require instant failover in the event of a contingency. For example, phone support for first responders is a critical area, but billing for those same services can be done at a later date. Even if your company does not expect to outsource the entire project, the assessment stage is where a reseller can be extremely valuable. An experienced partner can help you develop a professional assessment report and accelerate the entire evaluation process.
Subsequent columns will review additional steps required to implement your plan, but the above information provides a good starting point. However, one of the vital areas to be addressed initially is dealing with misconceptions. The coverage of the tsunami and the hurricanes in 2005 has distorted the public view of what defines a contingency. Most failover or contingencies do not occur as a result of a major disaster but more commonplace events. In fact, the most likely event is loss of power followed by fires and hardware failures. A significant percent of companies that failover to a hot site generally require just 4872 hours before resuming home operations. The FEMA 2005 disaster summary list (http://www.fema.gov/news/disasters.fema?year=2005) includes events such as severe local storms, flooding, fires, tornadoes, and snow that are more localized events, yet still large enough to be considered a disaster. Yet even this list does not include single building fires, power outages caused by a power
line/motor vehicle encounter, disruption of phone services, and other everyday events that will interrupt your operations.
Another misconception is that a continuity plan will be expensive. Of course, that is possible, but very dependent on the size and scope of your company operations. Many plans can be implemented without a significant investment. This is also an area where an experienced reseller can provide case studies and other factual information to educate your top management and planning team on what to expect. Keep in mind that if top management does not buy in on a plan, you dont have one.
Probably the most critical area for any business is communications.
Chuck Rutledge VP of Marketing for Quintum Technologies emphasizes:
As VoIP moves into the mainstream market, enterprises are becoming more demanding. Not only are they looking to use convergence-based applications to save costs, improve productivity, and enhance customer satisfaction, they are demanding survivable solutions. Loss of communications is loss of business and productivity. Intelligent VoIP access products allow VoIP communications to be routed over various paths depending upon destination and network availability. Simple examples are phone calls that are routed to the PSTN if the IP is lost, or to another site for PSTN hop off if the PSTN is lost. Todays market is supported by a wide variety of vendors offering a broad spectrum of VoIP applications, and the integration of intelligent VoIP access can support survivability in these applications. The value-added resellers are currently the ones in the position of bringing various components together to support a total solution and implementing it to assure it is not susceptible to network failures.
Continuity planning is another reason on the long list that substantiates why your companys migration to VoIP should be implemented now. Not all good things are expensive. Some are just based on better technology.
The table accompanying this article is a list of the founders and current members (at date of printing) of the Disaster Preparedness Communications Forum (DPCF). The list comprises vendors, non-profit associations, service providers, contingency planners, and resellers focused on the enterprise market and willing to devote resources to this valuable initiative.
If your company is interested in business continuity planning please visit: http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/disaster-preparedness/ Also, the member Web sites listed in the table will have additional information and you can always contact Max Schroeder at the address listed below. IT
Max Schroeder is a board member of the ECA, media relations committee chairman, and liaison to TMC. He is also the Sr. Vice President of FaxCore, Inc.
Rich Tehrani is the President and Group Editor-in-Chief at TMC and is Conference Chairman of Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO.
If your organization has an interest in participating in the TMC/ECA Disaster Preparedness Communications Forum, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
If you are interested in purchasing reprints of this article (in either print or PDF format), please visit Reprint Management Services online at www.reprintbuyer.com or contact a representative via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 800-290-5460.