The Way Business Is Moving published by
Issue Date: November 2008

When lightning strikes

1 November 2008

According to Dave Paulding, Interactive Intelligence’s regional sales director for UK and Africa, having a disaster management system in place will no longer bankrupt you, thanks to the move to software-based platforms. But some organisations are still reluctant to make the investment. Rather than saying any organisation without an effective DR plan is making a mistake, let us look at some of the common misperceptions and reasons why it is not a priority.
Disaster recovery planning is like insurance … overpriced, and seldom used
Fair enough. But just like insurance, a business never realises how important a communications disaster recovery plan is until you need it – and do not have it. Research firm Gartner Dataquest estimates that two out of five enterprises experiencing a disaster go out of business within five years. Therefore, having a well-devised DR plan can not only save a company money in the long term, it can save the actual business.
My customers will understand if they cannot get through
Will they? It is true that most people are sympathetic towards businesses that suffer from the effects of a disaster, like those in the US that were recently devastated by hurricanes. But, as a customer, they may not be as sympathetic when other types of outages interrupt their ability to communicate with your company to place orders, check on the status of those orders, schedule a service call, etc. After all, customers contact a business to purchase a product or service they need, and unfortunately their sympathy will eventually run its course. Then they will choose – or be forced – to go to one of your competitors.
The only communications tools my business needs are phones
Valid point, but go back to your customers for a minute (and suppliers, employees and remote workers). If the phone was the only thing they relied on to contact you and vice versa, yes, your business or call centre might need only backup phone services to get through an outage. But what happens if you are forced to work with a smaller staff during an emergency, and your customers no longer have access to self-service tools such as automated FAQ responses or your website? Chances are your business will be overloaded with calls, and will not have sufficient staffing to handle them all.
We can do disaster recovery ourselves
If your organisation has made the move to voice over IP (VoIP), that may be true. Fundamentally, IP telephony supports DR via its distributed network architecture – which, during an outage at one location, makes it possible for an organisation to route calls and other voice interactions to an alternate, designated disaster site connected over a local or wide area network. Also, because IP sends calls as compressed voice 'packets' over data networks, organisations can build a packet-based system for converged voice and data that is more reliable than traditional circuit-switched PBX phone systems and associated communications hardware.
However, the new breed of IP phones often used in a VoIP configuration require a dedicated power source within the enterprise, usually at HQ where an IP telephony server anchors enterprise-wide phone system capabilities. Interrupt power to that base location, and quite simply your IP phones will not work. Therefore the potential scenario ends up being a Catch 22 in that IP telephony can protect itself against a natural disaster, but cannot protect your business should Mother Nature decide to knock out power at the main office.
If you are working with a technology vendor who understands your needs, it is possible to devise a DR strategy to suit your business and your pocket. You will be glad you took the long term view and made the investment when lightning strikes.

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