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8:00pm EDT March 26, 2009

Disaster can strike at any time. And natural disasters aren’t a company’s only worries. From vandalism to robbery, employee theft to a disgruntled employee erasing the company’s hard drive, there is a lot that can go wrong.

Obviously, when disaster does strike, your business can be negatively affected if you’re not prepared. Not only that, the longer it takes you to recover, the less likely it is that your business will survive.

“Therefore, if you want to maintain the business’s continuity in the face of any disaster, you need to implement a comprehensive disaster recovery plan,” says Monty Ferdowsi, the president of Broadcore.

Smart Business spoke with Ferdowsi about disaster recovery processes and what companies can do to implement them.

How should a recovery plan be set up?

You’ll want to have a key person or persons in charge of the overall plan, but all people and departments should have some involvement. Your point person or persons will be responsible for making sure all departments are involved in providing input and that each department knows what it needs to do to implement the plan. Then everyone will know exactly what to do when disaster strikes.

What parts of a business’s telephony infrastructure can be affected by a disaster, power outage, etc.?

Premise-based PBX phone systems (those that serve a particular business or office) are vulnerable to outages and downtime under a number of different scenarios, including power outages, malfunctioning parts, humidity, water damage, lack of ventilation, vandalism, sabatoge, hacking and phone line out-ages. In many of those scenarios, the entire telephony infrastructure could be out of commission, resulting in inability to make or receive calls. And if you can’t make or receive calls, you’re not conducting business.

How can businesses prepare with both on-site and off-site solutions?

Internally, battery backup systems, uninterruptible power sources (UPS), proper ventilation, secured phone closets and proper service maintenance contracts with phone vendors can reduce the possibility of out-ages. However, businesses are still exposed to external, uncontrollable factors, such as natural disasters, vandalism and hackers.

Utilizing redundant servers (if the PBX phone system is capable of it) or an off-site hosted telephony and communications as a service (CaaS) provider will help reduce or eliminate the dependency on one, centralized premise-based telephony platform. In any case, however, you need to have a disaster recovery plan in place.

What else can a business do, besides utilizing off-site technologies?

Technology is key, and a good CaaS provider will save you a lot of time, money and headaches. Still, you need to be prepared to handle things on your end. The disaster recovery plan has to be properly designed and implemented, and your key personnel need to utilize the right equipment to successfully recover from any disaster.

No matter what happens — or how bad it is — you’ve got a business to run. You’ve got customers, equipment, productivity and your employees to consider. You have to know exactly what to do in any situation, down to the very last detail. Your disaster recovery plan has to spell out how you are going to recover, who is responsible for what and what equipment will be needed.

But, again, remote facilities, redundant servers and a good CaaS provider will be the key to a quick recovery time and minimized disruptions. This will ensure you have the proper resources in place to press on with business as usual. Another thing to consider is the space between your business and the data recovery facility. In the case of a natural disaster or catastrophic event, if your business is too close to your backup center, your backup data system could be destroyed in the same carnage your business is in.

How can the cost of a backup recovery system be justified in the current economy?

The key thing to consider is value, not cost. You have to ask yourself: ‘How much time can my company afford to be shut down?’ If the answer is hours or minutes, you need a quality backup system and a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, no questions asked. CaaS providers can assist you in putting together a system and plan that will keep your business constantly running with a minimal effect on the bottom line. When you look at it, you really can’t justify not having a backup system and a disaster recovery plan. The value and peace of mind you’ll get far outweighs any costs associated with a backup system.

So can a quality backup system and plan actually save a company money?

Absolutely. If you’re working with a good CaaS provider who can offer quality service, and you implement a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, not only will you be prepared for anything, you’ll also consolidate your servers and storage, leading you to true virtualization. This will reduce and/or eliminate specific hardware dependencies. Then, your company will be able to weather any disaster with little to no loss of data, equipment or revenue streams.

MONTY FERDOWSI is the president of Broadcore. Reach him at (800) 942-4700 or info@broadcore.com. Broadcore is a leading CaaS provider in the United States.