Sometimes, it’s hard for some of us to grasp that we could actually become affected by a natural disaster. While millions of East Coast citizens wait for their power to return, Manhattan subways to un-flood and discern how in the world to get gas in severely affected areas, it’s now no surprise that even a place as relatively calm as the North East can be impaled by threatening weather. One important take-away in this entire situation should be that absolutely anything can happen at any time – and without any way of stopping it. While emergency situations are oftentimes unpredictable and unavoidable, that doesn’t mean your business’ operations and communications should be.
Re-evaluating your emergency preparedness plan is not the easiest thing to do, but in the event of something as drastic as Hurricane Sandy where even hospitals had to evacuate, investing in a strategy that utilizes the right combination of technology and resources has never been more important.
“As the Northeast regions of the U.S. must revise their emergency preparedness in-light of the impact of Superstorm Sandy, so-too must enterprises review the impact of network outages and business continuity to ensure a more cost-effective and efficient strategy that minimizes down-time,” reflects this recent Tone Software blog written by Amit Kapoor, director of Strategic Technology.
Patients at New York University Langone Medical Center, for example, had to be evacuated out of the emergency facility during such horrible conditions due to multiple feet of flooding. The fact that the building’s generators failed them could have literally meant life or death for these affected individuals, as they did not have efficient communications.
“Business continuity requires visibility, availability, reliability and redundancy to ensure the entire organization is kept well informed during emergencies,” explains Kapoor. “When the business must reprioritize functions between different geographic territories, are the communications networks successful in handling the increased workload for service quality and throughput?”
At the end of the day, it seems to come down to the reliability of network operations, which in turn ensure operational visibility to go beyond standard network measures to include metrics for environmental monitoring as well as service quality, suggests Kapoor. “The fluidity of emergency conditions means businesses must dynamically adjust functions across geographic regions,” he adds.
Having said that, here are some critical questions to consider when securing real-time visibility into all aspects of your business’ network:
1.) Are sites experiencing any extreme environmental conditions such as power loss, UPS backup battery activation, increased humidity levels, spikes in electrical circuits? “While the site may be available, such conditions are the proactive measures to identify potential network failures,” Kapoor insists.
2.) When the business must re-distribute functions between different geographic regions, are the failover/redundant locations ready for the increased workload? “Real-time visibility into throughput, bandwidth, errors and load provide the necessary insight to determine any critical load factors,” explains Kapoor.
3.) During regional communication outages, are your dial-plan, routing and priorities defined accurately to re-distribute the workload? “Real-time visibility into call failures and RTP call path variations are required to determine if unified communications (UC) are prepared for regional outages,” he notes.
4.) When communications have been re-routed to different geographic regions, how has/will service quality degrade, are new routing paths experiencing higher latency, and are mis-configured packet priorities degrading voice quality? Such things as real-time visibility into call paths, VoIP QoS and overall RTP QoS are a must during such dynamic changes to guarantee an acceptable end-user Quality of Experience, Kapoor adds.
5.) Do operations have the necessary unified view of the network across the regional centers, are there multiple tools to identify degradations or is it a single MOM, or do redundant operational teams share similar data?
“Fluidity of emergency conditions means network operations must equally re-distribute functions to ensure business continuity and having a single MOM aids in the process,” Kapoor concludes. “A unified view shared amongst redundant operational centers ensures no gaps exist in monitoring the network.”