The term “disaster recovery” and its association with the cloud is used so much these days that it has become somewhat of a cliché. Floridians usually think of hurricanes; in California, its earthquakes; in the mid-west, the deadly tornado. But if you stop and think about it, the vast majority of disasters are really everyday events. Servers crash, buildings burn, power goes out. It happens.
Everyday disasters are the biggest reason why it is vital to have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan one that covers the everyday contingencies. If you properly prepare, you can keep business up and running with little to no loss. However, if you’re unprepared, you could lose time, money and business something no company can afford, especially in these uncertain times.
Smart Business spoke with Mark Swanson, the CEO of Telovations Inc., about how cloud-based communications can assist with your disaster recovery plans.
Why do you make the point that everyday disasters are more important to prepare for?
I am not saying to ignore preparation for the big things, but you need to be ready for the more likely disasters. Disasters are measured in terms of potential loss and the likelihood of an event. Everyone in our town thinks of hurricanes, so when there’s a seminar the planning is all around coping with a disastrous event. But if you look at the facts, there has not been a hurricane to hit Tampa since 1921. What you see are things like fires, highway crashes or a back hoe through the telephone lines. Also, if there is a big disaster, everyone is going to know it; there will be others (like the government, hopefully) to aid you and your customers will probably be more forgiving. However, if you tell them you are out for a week because your server blew up, you aren’t going to be given much slack.
Since there are so many possibilities, how can you plan for everything?
That’s the paradox, you can’t. The disaster that happens will not happen the way you thought it would. The key is making sure your lines of communication are understood and stay open. Once something happens, you will need to adjust your plan. In today’s highly technological world, a business can’t afford to be without phone, e-mail and/or Internet for even a few hours. Having all your communications capabilities phone, e-mail, conferencing, fax, etc. in the cloud provides what we call ‘disaster redirect,’ which is the built-in ability to redirect from the premise to the cloud. Backup servers are nice, but if you want to be truly covered, you should consider cloud-based communications.
Can you give an example?
Let me give you a true story from this past summer. We get a lot of thunderstorms in Florida and every summer we get a couple power flickers. But not that day.
As I prepared for a 2 p.m. phone call with a good business prospect, there was a brief flickering of the overhead fluorescent lights. I clicked to my Outlook Calendar and it happened again. I noticed my second monitor flash off and on a reminder that I should plug it into my UPS. I looked out the window to check for the ominous black clouds that warn of the almost-daily afternoon thunderstorms we experience in Florida this time of year. Skies were, however, sunny and blue.
Just as I opened my calendar to find the phone number to call, the lights flickered for the last time. Atop the eight-story building, a massive air conditioner unit seized up, shorting 220 volts of power and sending a surge to the main circuit panel. In the power room, the main breaker fried, causing a shower of sparks to cascade to the floor. The building was eerily quiet, dark and powerless.
Of course my calendar with the phone number I was about to dial was open on my second monitor, the one not connected to my UPS. I was already a minute or so late for the call as I fumbled to move the calendar from my blank monitor to my notebook PC. After several tries, I caught the menu bar with my mouse and was able to see the number. I clicked to dial the number and went into sales mode as if nothing had happened. During my conversation, the power went on and off again and again. When I finished the conversation a half-hour later, the power died for the last time. In fact, it did not come back until the next day.
Situations like this are why preparing for a disaster is so important. You never know what is going to happen, and disaster comes in all shapes and sizes. We had not rehearsed this scenario specifically, but I was glad our communications were in the cloud.
How did cloud-based communications help you with disaster recovery?
In general, cloud-based communications provide customers with the ability to reroute calls, dynamically set up remote office capability and manage their phone systems from a browser. This, combined with power and network redundancy, allows you to continue communicating even in the event of no power at all.
When our building lost power, the on-site batteries gave us time to move equipment around, tap into local wireless routers and decide which employees should work from home. Since all of our network equipment and servers are located in secure data centers, all our systems continued to operate as if nothing happened. Even when our on-site batteries ran down, our staff was able to work from home where they had access to the network monitoring and ticketing systems to continue business as usual. Our phones were diverted to employees’ mobile phones or home office phones, depending upon how they configured their individual profiles.
Other than getting a little extra exercise from walking down the stairs, it was just another day for our employees. But most importantly, not one of our customers ever noticed that we experienced and survived a disaster.
With cloud-based communications, you can continue with business as usual no matter what occurs. How would your business be affected if your building lost power for the entire day? Would it be business as usual? <<
Mark Swanson is the CEO of Telovations Inc. Reach him at email@example.com.