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May 18, 2006

Continuity Planning 101

The Internet Telephony Solution

By Rich Tehrani & Max Schroeder

 

In the wake of the 2005 hurricane disasters on the United States Gulf Coast and the tsunami disaster earlier in the year, the Enterprise Communications Association (ECA) and TMC launched an initiative to assist enterprises and local government groups to better prepare for adverse events. Press conferences and meetings were held at the Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO Fall 2005 in Los Angeles and January 2006 in Ft. Lauderdale. Our first column on this subject was published in January 2006 and continued in March and April.

The above activities have resulted in the formation of the Disaster Planning Communications Forum (DPCF).

The initial objectives are:
1. The collection and development of materials to begin a disaster planning reference library. Initially, this library will consist of materials already available from DPCF members and other key vendors in this market.

2. The development of a Disaster Planning Checklist targeting enterprises and local government.

3. The development of a Disaster Planning Guide. The guide will begin with the above list and expand into a complete resource for disaster planning. Both the checklist and the guide will be made available by the TMC and the ECA.

TMC has set up access to this Forum at: http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/disaster-preparedness/ TMC will also be hosting a chat room for DPCF members and an open forum on TMCnet.com.

Previous columns examined how IP Communications provides a convenient and cost-effective technology for business continuity planning. A case was also presented for utilizing experienced vendors, resellers, and consulting firms to formulate and implement an enterprise-wide business continuity plan. Employing a specialist is definitely recommended for several reasons.

First, the question of how to deal with a disaster is complex and perceived very differently by individual enterprise organizations. Significantly, even the initial designation assigned for a companys disaster planning project can both define and limit the scope of the plan. The terms Disaster Preparedness Plan, Business Continuity Plan, and Disaster Recovery Plan are generally not clearly understood by most enterprises. These terms have been frequently perceived as interchangeable which only highlights the need for a specialist to provide guidance. Lets explore the three phases of a business continuity plan:

Phase 1: Planning This is the most critical of the three phases, as it defines the boundaries for the entire process of avoiding the interruption of normal operations. The distinction between a disaster and a simple discontinuance of service is solely based on the relative severity of the problem. For example, a short-term power outage (most common form of business interruption) can usually be overcome simply by having a backup generator in place. However, maintaining business continuity after having your office destroyed by fire requires a far different strategy. In that event, failing to have a solid plan in place could mean a total inability to restore operations and the enterprise would cease to exist.




Phase 2: Business Continuity Required The key here is to define what level of interruption is unacceptable and develop an avoidance plan. For example, critical operations such as hospital services and emergency response functions require a 7 x 24 communications network justifying a major outlay of resources. Maintaining functions such as sales and accounting operations are not life critical or even critical to the survival of the enterprise, as long as the services are restored in a reasonable time period. For these operations, a 7x24 failover plan may not be required.

Phase 3: Recovery This phase is directly and inversely proportional to Phase 1. The better the plan the shorter the recovery phase. Even if the primary site is rendered totally inoperable for an extended period, a plan that includes the immediate shift to a failover site can shrink the recovery period to the few seconds or minutes required for the transition.

Although the massive disasters of 2005 brought attention to the need for business continuity, they have diverted the focus to planning for major disasters. Actually, most enterprises are impacted by more ordinary disruptions, like building fires, power outages from ice storms, transit strikes in large cities like New York, and other common events. A major focus of the DPCF will be to educate businesses on how Internet Telephony and converged technologies have totally changed the business continuity industry. The latest developments in VoIP and wireless communications provide for options that were just not available ten, or even five years ago. For example, the old method of having a backup site with an expensive PBX and other equipment does not apply in todays world. Plus, todays VoIP and Web technologies allow for a company to implement a plan that both improves current operations and incorporates a failover plan at the same time. Lastly, these same technologies make managed services look very attractive, which will be the subject of next months column.

If your company is interested in business continuity planning please visit http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/disaster-preparedness/ to view additional information provided by DPCF members, TMC and the ECA. 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 maxschroeder@tmcnet.com or rtehrani@tmcnet.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 tmcnet@reprintbuyer.com or by phone at 800-290-5460.

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