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January 2007
Volume 10 / Number 1

Disaster Recovery... For The Birds?

By Greg Galitzine

According to a recent article on Scientific American’s Web site, “experts say [the virus] could evolve into a pandemic strain that infects people easily... although up to now it has infected only 258 people and killed 154.”

Of course, my focus in this column is not to engage in fear mongering, but simply to point out that it’s probably good business practice to be prepared for the day when the news breaks that the virus has arrived.

This month, at the upcoming Internet Telephony Conference and EXPO (January 23–26), we’ve dedicated a fair amount of content to the subject of disaster preparedness and what enterprises need to know in order to keep their businesses up and running in a worst case scenario.

In fact, I will be hosting a panel of experts focusing on how VoIP (define - news - alert) and related IP Communications technology can help keep businesses operational on Wednesday, January 24th. The following day will feature a full three-hour workshop designed to help businesses create a plan to ensure continuity of business in the case of disaster. According to Max Schroeder, who is the session moderator, “The session is structured for audience participation so come prepared with any questions you would like the speakers to address.”

One of the points that you’re sure to hear time and again at the event is that it doesn’t have to be a hurricane or tsunami or large scale act of terrorism, to name just a few of the major disruptive events that we’ve all lived through in recent memory. It can be something as seemingly benign as the flu.

But in the case of avian flu we’re not talking a few empty seats at work, or a bunch of sneezing, sniffling bond traders. We’re talking about the possibility of health services organizations shutting down cities on a large scale in the hopes of preventing the spread of the virus. Workers and managers need to be prepared for these scenarios. What if the workplace is closed? What if schools are closed with children forced to stay home? If there are two working parents, it can pose a serious challenge to business continuity. What if workers are not allowed to congregate in preplanned disaster recovery centers?

I recently visited with Sir Terry Matthews, Chairman of the Board of Mitel, who shared with me his thoughts on what an outbreak could do to a financial services operation and some of the things his company is doing to help alleviate the potential work-stoppage problems associated with a pandemic.

For starters, Mitel has come out with an IP-based solution targeted at workers in the financial services community. Mitel’s (news - alert) Capital Markets Solution features a selection of endpoint devices designed to deliver a full suite of collaboration tools, including voice, video, email, and secure instant messaging. Endpoints available as part of this solution include the Mitel 5340 IP Phone, the Mitel IP Turret, and the Mitel Navigator.

In the case of an emergency, traders can now go to their homes and continue to work. As Matthews explained, in the case of a false SARS alarm in Toronto, workers were immediately sent home and not allowed to leave.

“So now you can’t have the workers go to a disaster recovery center,” Matthews told me. “Everybody go home and don’t move. But here’s the interesting thing — every trader is a licensed trader, which means they can trade from anywhere.”

If these traders have access to a broadband line, they can be up and running in no time from their home. Imagine the impracticality — not to mention the cost — of drawing 100 private lines to the homes of 100 traders. And of course in some parts of the world, private lines are simply unavailable.

Matthews, again: “But in this case the trading turret operates over IP. So taking advantage of a broadband IP connection, you can set up a trading floor anywhere, be it Hanoi where there may not be any private lines at all, or Phuket, for that matter.”

Matthews also pointed out the growing market opportunity to service smaller boutique trading firms, and Mitel’s positioning. “Our claim to fame is much lower cost to set up and extreme flexibility. You can set up at home, or you can set up another trading floor, you can put a disaster recovery center in... the solution is flexible. And, remember, in the world of finance the last five or six years has seen a dramatic change in the number of companies that have been set up; the number of people leaving large trading firms to start their own boutique firms. “When a company sets up, they can’t necessarily set up a trading floor at 15 grand a pop for the turret and all the private lines.” Trading is a complex business, where the workers rely on the equipment they use to succeed in their profession. Mitel, which has a history of servicing vertical markets, is proving yet again that focusing on a market niche and addressing that niche with the appropriate solution is one sure-fire way to succeed.

Greg Galitzine is group editorial director of TMC's IP communications family of products. He can be reached at [email protected].


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