Is Your Business on the Line?
By Julie Clark and Michael Fox
Telecommunications is your lifeline in day to day business operations. Todays competitive corporate world demands that we be
able to interact in a professional and immediate fashion. No matter how sophisticated and advanced your telecommunications
system is, no one system is immune to disruption.
Unfortunately, even the most comprehensive system is vulnerable to unexpected disruptions or disasters; power outages, storms, sabotage, accidents and fire are threats to your companys most vital link. As you may be aware, the costs and hardships a company endures when these unfortunate situations occur can be crippling. Although you do not have control over the disaster itself, you do have control over minimizing your damages. The most effective way to do so is to have a contingency plan.
A good contingency plan provides a strategy for the prevention of service loss and assures alternate means of communication when a disruption occurs. In developing your contingency plan, the four following points of information should serve as a starting point for your communications plan of prevention and resumption:
1. Identify your equipment/service needs
2. Protect and maintain your equipment
3. Locate alternate sites/services for emergency use
4. Keep abreast of new products/services geared towards disaster prevention and business recovery
IDENTIFY YOUR EQUIPMENT SERVICE NEEDS
It is important to do a thorough investigation and analysis of the various systems available in order to properly determine which systems is best for your companys needs. Each system has different capabilities and protective measures designed in the system itself and the equipment which complements it. Systems such as a Key telephone system or Private Branch Exchange (PBX) may be controlled from your location. An alternative to this is Centrex, which is controlled at a central office base. In a central office-based system, the telephone company can provide power and switching capabilities offsite. Knowing this difference will allow you to be more cognizant of the direct effects on your system in case of an on-site disaster.
PROTECT AND MAINTAIN YOUR EQUIPMENT
Periodic updates of your telephone and data communication systems and equipment are also key in preventing the unexpected. Keeping your environment clean, temperature controlled, moisture-free and secure are all critical measures you should take in order to avoid unnecessary breakdowns and deterioration.
LOCATE ALTERNATE SITES AND SERVICES FOR EMERGENCY USE
A disaster will rob you of your systems; however, with predetermined alternate sites and services, it wont rob you of your options. The use of cellular communications via mobile or transportable phones, though limited in its capacity, will aid you in establishing immediate communications. Backing up your communication systems with uninterrupted power sources (UPS), redundant feed lines, microwave, or satellite systems will enable you to maintain connectivity and keep your operations running.
Offsite storage of your data files will allow you to access vital information from alternate sites in case of disruption at your main site. You can call upon these previously stored duplicate files so that, even in the event of relocation, your important data is readily available. It is imperative that you are continually aware of the materials you store to simplify your search during a crisis.
Look into Business Recovery Facilities that your corporation can turn to in case of a disaster and return you to your business functions. Most of todays Business Recovery Centers offer telephone switching capabilities that can have your phone lines ringing at an alternate site within one hour. These facilities can also duplicate your existing office configuration on a floor plan so that upon activation, your organization can walk into a facility customized to your specifications.
KEEP ABREAST OF NEW PRODUCTS AND SERVICES GEARED TOWARDS DISASTER PREVENTION
Your telephone company is continually updating its systems to improve its response in case of disruption. It offers alternative lines and services to forward and switch your calls. Keeping up with these developments can be vital in case of disaster.
Likewise, Business Recovery Centers are also constantly updating the services offered to corporations. A nominal monthly subscription fee to these centers can assure you that in case of a disaster, your corporation may resume its business as usual functions by activating the alternate site.
Employing a prevention and resumption contingency plan for your business will prepare you to act quickly and decisively in the event of a disaster. Once the contingency plan has been charted, it must be periodically tested and updated. Failure to do this could put your corporation on the line and just possibly out of business.
Julie Clark and Michael Fox are Account Executives for Metropolitan Emergency Disaster Services (MEDS).
This article adapted from Vol. 4 No. 1, p. 30.
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