The Importance of Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery: Telecommunications Infrastructure Introduction Be prepared. By implementing a Disaster Recovery or Business Continuity Plan, the telecommunications infrastructure gives redundant access that gives local authorities and businesses the ability to allow minimal downtime and continuous operation in the face of disaster. Telecommunications is very vital to the disaster recovery process. The arrival of a disaster situation requires prompt notification and mobilization of key management and recovery personnel who are often at different locations.
Coordination among key officials of government agencies usually transpires over the telecommunications networks; helping to guarantee a more coordinated and measured response (Houck, 2004). Because of the complexities of recovering a telecommunications network, it is important to have a prior plan in place that ensures you are protected when a disaster occurs. When beginning the planning process for a response in the event of a disaster, it is necessary to have an understanding of the organization’s critical business functions. What is a Disaster? In a disaster, telecommunications infrastructure failures can occur through a variety of ways.
Researching into communications failures during large urban disasters in the past fifteen years reveals three main categories of causes: Physical destruction of network components, disruption in supporting network infrastructure, and network congestion (Moss ; Townsend, 2005). More often than not, disasters happen on smaller scales, often hundreds of times more than the larger ones. Smaller disasters, such as building fires, burst pipes that flood offices, server crashes that result in corrupted data, extended power outages, and severe winter storms arise more than big disasters.
Critical business processes fail for hours, days, and possibly weeks by one of these small events, serving up a fatal blow to time-critical, service-oriented businesses (Gregory, 2008). The most common cause of telecommunications failures in recent disasters has been physical destruction of network infrastructure. Due to the time and financial necessity needed to repair or replace systems, service disruptions caused by physical destruction tend to be more distressing and last longer than those caused by disconnection or congestion.
Even though they can be less common than outages caused by physical damage, outages caused by disruption in supporting infrastructure tend to be far more widespread and damaging to response and recovery efforts. To ensure their proper operation, telecommunications networks rely upon many other local and regional technical systems. Typically, these supporting infrastructures often date from an earlier period of time and lack resilience to physical damage (Moss ; Townsend, 2005).
Another major cause of telecommunications failure during a disaster is network congestion or overload. Disasters generate the intense need for human communication, to coordinate response activities, to convey news and information, and as a panic reaction to a crisis. It is a known fact that major disasters are the most intense creators of telecommunications traffic, and the resulting surge of demand can bring down even the most well managed networks. With networks under this stress, calls are blocked and messages are lost (Moss ; Townsend, 2005).
In a journal written by members of the technical staff of Bell Labs and Lucent Technologies, Houck (2004, p. 1) explains, “Critical national infrastructures for power, finance, transportation, and other basic resources rely on information and telecommunications networks (voice, data, Internet) to provide services and conduct business. While these networks tend to be highly reliable, disasters may lead to extended outages requiring days/weeks to repair. ” Having a Disaster Recovery Plan In order to address the needs to improve the communications facilities of oth the government and emergency response community, we must remember the main requirements of that community, such as the ability to communicate within the local, state, and federal government emergency response community and officials (police, fire, rescue, local government, hospitals), the ability to receive broadcasts (radio and television) in order to stay informed, the ability to communicate with the local population (via Internet, radio and television), and to be able to communicate with private companies that will be required to provide equipment and services during an emergency (Taylor, 2002).
Taylor (2002, p. 1) has pointed out that over the years these (communications) systems have become increasingly sophisticated and useful. However, no system is invulnerable to catastrophic failure or the stress of widespread response to disasters such as occurred on September 11, 2001. The tragic events of that day have led to a renewed interest in analyzing the existing emergency and local government response mechanisms and evaluating what measures can be taken to provide additional safeguards and backup communications in the event of future disasters.
In future situations, as on September 11, 2001, the communications networks can themselves suffer damage, resulting in reduced or unavailable service, and the networks can be overloaded as both government and disaster personnel and the average citizen seek to stay informed and communicate with family members. The loss of infrastructure that is the foundation for the transport of information (voice and data signals) from one location to another can suppress businesses. You should have a disaster recovery plan in place before such a catastrophe occurs.
Moreover, even though a business may assume their plan is sound, bringing back a crashed network will never be a simple endeavor (Knisley, 1995). The Disaster Recovery Plan A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is an outline created by the principals of a company, or those they choose to hire, to detail how a business will deal with any potential disaster that may occur. Because a true disaster is typically unforeseen, it is best for the company to have a disaster recovery plan in place prior to a disaster occurring within the company.
The disaster recovery plan will outline the steps to take to ensure that the customers will be taken care of in a timely manner and return the business to operation as quickly as possible. While creating a disaster recovery plan, companies can often find improvements of certain processes and IT systems to make them more versatile. Severe business interruption would be the result of a disaster, small or large, before you had the DR plan in place. However, in many cases, they turn out to be just a minor event after one enacted the plan (Gregory, 2008). According to Gregory (2008, p. 97), an established authority on IT technology and security, “The disaster recovery planning procedures are especially important because people who are not the foremost experts on the systems that support critical business processes may have to read and follow those procedures. Those people have to rebuild critical systems in a short period of time so those systems can support critical processes. In addition, the people performing those processes probably are not subject matter experts at the business process level. The business’s survival depends on the paperwork being right. You do not get any second chances. When writing and developing a disaster recovery plan, there are certain activities that must be addressed before actually assembling the plan. Some of the points to address are documenting vital applications and vital data sets, forming disaster recovery teams, developing administrative procedures, maintain hardware, software, telecommunications, and configuration documentation records, as well as creating a record of all vendor information and more (Hiatt, 2000). When addressing the infrastructure of a business, some questions to ask in the event of a disaster may include: What cables are still viable?
Will rerouting lines acquire connectivity? Can integral segments be remapped? There are several system design concepts involved in setting up a disaster plan for the IT infrastructure, such as creating a redundant network with satellite or wireless connectivity, alternate service facilities, and backup power. Also needed in a successful plan are accurate record keeping, network security, and network testing. A few example methods for infrastructure recovery and restoration of services are satellite and wireless networks. Satellite communications are widely used in many different ways that relate to disaster and emergency communications.
Satellite communications can play a significant role in the preparation of emergency communications, specifically, as backup to critical infrastructure that can be damaged or inundated in disaster situations. Implementing mobile or fixed satellite systems to complement other telecommunications infrastructure is necessary for local governments, police, fire, and emergency organizations (Taylor, 2002). Until recently, most organizations considered wireless technology to be an alternate work style, not a key player of their IT strategy.
Nevertheless, wireless technology has matured and there are a number of systems and technologies available that make wireless a reliable solution, for both day-to-day use and emergency backup. For many companies whose facilities not destroyed, but were inaccessible for days or even weeks, wireless access offered the only way to recover critical data from stranded servers and maintain basic business functions. The resilience of wireless networks, together with the dominance of mobile devices, positions wireless technology to play an integral role in the emergency response plan of most organizations.
For any plan to be viable, it must be properly tested. A company should determine whether a business could fully resume operations after a disaster by having a written and tested disaster recovery program. A solid DR program is actually a collection of specific action plans such as: a disaster avoidance plan to reduce or limit risks, a emergency response plan to ensure rapid response to small incidents, a recovery plan to direct the firm in resuming primary business functions, and a business continuity plan to fully restore all business activities to their normal operations (Hiatt, 2000).
Conclusion There are many types of businesses that could benefit from having a disaster recovery plan, but many business owners either believe that a disaster recovery plan is not necessary or they put off creating, implementing, and testing a plan for so long that a disaster strikes and disrupts their business before they have a plan put into place. Hiatt (2000, p. 55) notes that, “Even the best avoidance plan cannot prevent every disaster. When a serious incident occurs, a company must have an emergency response plan.
The focuses of this plan should be the personnel and tasks necessary to immediately mitigate damage to people and company assets. After ensuring the human safety for employees, visitors, and the public, the plan should also address public relations and advertising strategies to let your clients know that you are still in business, and where they can reach you. ” Business leaders are becoming more and more aware of the complexities and interdependencies surrounding today’s telecommunication networks, and that telecomm is one of the most critical infrastructure components of any corporation.
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