The Importance of Communications and Operational Continuity

As the effects of Superstorm Sandy are still being felt all over the East Coast, I can’t help but reflect on the importance of Communications especially during times of disaster. Business Continuity requires visibility, availability, reliability and redundancy to ensure the entire organization is kept well informed during emergencies.  Are remote locations healthy and available or are services potentially degrading to prevent remote employees from being productive? 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?

In many organizations, the burden of responsibility to ensure such continuity relies on network operations to fulfill such functions either manually, through tools or a hybrid approach.  Operational visibility must go beyond standard network measures and must include metrics for environmental monitoring and service quality. The fluidity of emergency conditions means businesses must dynamically adjust functions across geographic regions.

Real-Time visibility into all aspects of the network is a necessity when performing such dynamic business changes.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 are prepared for regional outages.
  • When communications have been re-routed to different geographic regions, how has/will service quality degrade, are new routing paths experiencing higher latency, are mis-configured packet priorities degrading voice quality? Real-time visibility into call paths, VoIP QoS and overall RTP QoS are a must during such dynamic changes for an acceptable end-user Quality of Experience.
  • Finally, does 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, 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. A unified view shared amongst redundant operational centers ensures no gaps exist in monitoring the network, i.e, did we not have visibility over the environmental conditions because Application X monitors environmental while Application Y monitors communications?

A well designed strategy for operations ensures continued business functions during unforeseen events such as Superstorm Sandy, however a strategy that utilizes the correct combination of technology and resources ensures a successful execution of the strategy. As the Northeast regions of the US must revise their emergency preparedness in-light of the impact of Superstorm Sandy, so-to must Enterprises review the impact of network outages and business continuity to ensure a more cost-effective and efficient strategy that minimizes down-time.