Disasters aren’t only a result of the weather. In a business sense, man-made events such as cyberattacks are disasters as well. Business continuity solutions preserve and protect system data, and are a key differentiator of businesses that recover from disaster and those who fail.
While many organizations may have a business continuity plan in place that involves a pre-defined backup and recovery process, too many companies neglect to properly test their plans. In the event of an incident, though, the execution of an untested plan can introduce unnecessary stress and hiccups into the recovery process.
In order to ensure that the business and its customers successfully survive a potential disaster, it is essential to not just have a plan, but to test it. Here are four reasons to test the plan now.
Confirm Contractual Commitments
In addition to uptime, many contracts have service level agreements that include guaranteed response time to inquiries and guarantees concerning other deliverables that will require a quick recovery in the event of any downtime. By testing the backup and recovery plan now, businesses can more confidently promise customers a certain recovery time objective (RTO), and ensure that they won’t have to pay penalties because they over-promised with an untested RTO estimate.
Gain a Deeper Understanding of Infrastructure
Perhaps one of the “underdog” advantages of planning for business continuity is that it can help the organization gain a deeper perspective on deployed infrastructure, programs, and processes. Performing a backup and recovery test forces stakeholders to take into account both the individual machine components of the system, while also maintaining a high-level view of the entire process.
For example, will the recovery be a simple file and folder-level recovery or will it involve a fully booted virtual machine? Asking and answering these types of questions will provide some key insights that may benefit the daily business operations in addition to helping define the recovery plan.
Well-defined roles and responsibilities are essential to a good business continuity plan. Backup and recovery testing will help cement the duties of every employee involved in the process. For example, perhaps a communications glitch has caused confusion about who is responsible for a certain customer’s data. Or, maybe the organization hasn’t fully nailed down the customer notification and relationship management process. While everything may look good on paper, the testing process will solidify responsibilities and ensure that key players can confidently perform their required duties during a real recovery.
It’s undeniable that customers are concerned about what will happen to their data in the event of a disaster; they will be pleased when you can present them with testing logs, and confirm that components of the business continuity plan are tested on a regular basis. Regular backup and recovery testing is already an industry standard for cloud providers. It’s likely that the requirements will only become more stringent in the future, and it will serve the organization well to have documented testing logs dating back multiple years.
Backup and recovery testing provides multiple benefits to the business. A well-executed test not only solidifies the plan of action in the case of a failure, but also strengthens internal business processes and encourages more positive customer relationships. Furthermore, stakeholders can rest easy knowing that if something does happen, their business continuity plan is not just well-written, it’s also well-tested.
Unified Communications (UC) is a strategy that helps a company save money and bring a widespread audience together in an efficient and powerful way. Resources are optimized, communication channels are streamlined, and technology is utilized to its fullest potential. The immense benefits of UC are enhanced even further when combined with other services, especially in the case of business analytics–the best possible partner to a solid UC strategy.
Defining the Metrics
Data is an essential part of discovering the measurable impacts of change or process. Through business analytics, the most relevant set of metrics can be identified so that exceptions may be defined. Identifying such boundaries and outlying areas, a business is able to better determine potential trouble spots and help correct them even as they occur.
The type of metrics will vary by industry and business case. For example, a call center may find average handling time and number of completed calls to be useful statistics to discover training opportunities. On the other hand, a manufacturing facility could use minutes of downtime, items produced, and number of failed products as measurables.
Communicating the Issue
Exceptions that fall below the threshold should trigger some sort of alarm or awareness so problems can be efficiently corrected. While presenting an alert is an essential function of the business analysis process, improvement cannot be realized without a seamless UC program. Who should be notified to exceptions? Who is responsible for identifying corrective action? How is correction to be made? Is public communication necessary? In what form? Does a best practice or company standard need to be defined or altered? Such questions scratch the surface of what a strong UC strategy will cover. If the appropriate measures are taken, the entire company will benefit from the relationship between business analytics and UC.
An example of how business analytics and UC can work together is an assembly line failure. Mr. Smith has received Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that indicate a potential problem on Machine 5. The number of acceptable quality products has plummeted from 75 per second to 33 per second. As this falls below the acceptable limits for this machine, Mr. Smith is able to acknowledge an issue. He also knows from today’s KPIs that Machines 8 and 20 are slightly below normal. Mr. Smith is able to consult with operations and finds that there was a faulty widget previously used to repair Machine 5. Coincidentally, Machines 8 and 20 also received this same repair about a week after that of Machine 5.
By using business analytics in conjunction with the company’s UC strategy, Mr. Smith can convey to the organization in real time that the faulty widget may be a widespread issue. The company can also identify any other machines that were repaired using the faulty part, remediate these repairs, and prevent the additional machine failure. Productivity is saved. Operations has saved time and money. Revenue projections have been preserved.
The combination of business analytics and UC is a formula for success and growth. From optimized production to increased shareholder value, this technique can help reap rewards across an organization.
However, SIP systems have not been without its flaws. One significant risk has been the ability to effectively reach 911 emergency services. Fortunately, with a little conscientious pre-planning, companies can realize the benefits of SIP trunks and better enable 911 than traditional POTS lines.
Imagine the complex telephone system of a multistory building and a scenario where someone had to call for an ambulance. If adequate information is not passed to emergency services, it could be nearly impossible to locate the imperiled patient. For best results, the SIP carrier should design the system into quadrants, floors, sections, or zones.
Private Switch/Automatic Location Identification (PS/ALI ) services are often used on traditional systems like a PBX for large buildings. Switching to SIP trunking in that type of arrangement may cause location services to fail. An alternative type of service may be required, such as a VoIP Positioning Center (VPC), and should be part of the agreement with the SIP trunk carrier.
Benefits of SIP Trunking 911
The last thing anyone wants in an emergency is a system failure that prevents victims from getting help. SIP trunks have failover built in; if one segment goes down the call can still reliably travel through another intact segment.
Notifying Building Security
Another useful advantage to E911 on a SIP trunk is notification service. Any 911 caller in the building can get emergency providers on the phone while simultaneously notifying building personnel of the issue. This can better facilitate getting medical attention than waiting for outside help to arrive, and it may mean the difference between life or death.
SIP trunk 911 systems have a built-in testing function to ensure that the system is set up properly and all quadrants and segments are clearly identified. Simply by using 9-3-3 after the system is configured, telecom experts can verify locations and settings.
Laptop and Mobile Safety
An interesting feature of SIP trunking is that mobile device or laptop computer users can be located more easily in an emergency. If the call is made from one of these portable products, the location services can help dial in the whereabouts of the emergency. This is even true when using Skype or another softphone technology.
SIP trunking is flexible and affordable thanks to the growing number of packages and vendors in the market. The coupling of this powerful technology with a solid Unified Communications (UC) strategy makes telecommunications simple and effective for organizations large and small. With the added strength of emergency service access via E911, there’s no reason to delay the switch to SIP.
Our customers are looking to ROI Networks to assist them with virtualizing and/or upgrading their VOIP and communication applications to the latest software, while eliminating dedicated servers and reducing total cost of ownership. They are looking to either leverage their existing virtualization infrastructure or, because of special requirements, deploy a dedicated environment of real-time applications that run independently from non-real-time applications. Traditional solutions are not typically engineered or sized to provide the performance demanded by real-time applications.
Here are just some of the benefits you get with the ROI vPack:
- Purpose built and tested solution
- Documented architecture
- Design assurance from HP, VMWare and Avaya
- Reduced Total Cost of Ownership
- N+1 Fault tolerance
- Isolate troubleshooting and support of real-time communication applications
And here is what is included with the ROI vPack:
- A minimum of 3 HP DL360 Servers
- A combination of Flash and SATA storage
- VMWare VSphere Hypervisor
- VMWare VSAN storage software
- ROI Networks Remote Intelligence Gateway (RIG) for Proactive Monitoring and Alarming to our Network Operations Center
- Single point of support with escalation to HP, VMWare, or Avaya, if necessary
There’s no question that the enterprise is moving in the direction of a mobility-enabled and cloud-friendly era. While most will agree these two trends are related, it is important to understand how they work together in order to have a successful implementation.
An Inseparable Duo in the Enterprise
Embracing mobility in additional business areas, companies are simultaneously hosting more and more infrastructure in the cloud. There are two unique ways in which mobility and the cloud are moving in tandem in the workplace:
- Pressure: The heat is on to enable employees to work from any device and from anywhere. Mobility is becoming a vital component in the formula for employee success. Similarly, executives are hungry to reap the cost savings and flexibility touted by cloud evangelists.
- Budget: Businesses are prepared to invest in both mobile and cloud initiatives. Surveys of budget stakeholders suggest that the budget increases for mobility and for the cloud are both in the 50 percent range.
Preparing for the Shift
Given the intrinsic pairing of the cloud and mobility, how does the forward-thinking organization prepare for a side-by-side expansion? A few conscious planning and purchasing decisions will help IT stakeholders stay ahead of the curve on this trend:
- Innovate: Where it hasn’t already been done, migrate legacy desktop apps to cloud platforms. The virtualization and Desktop as a Service (DaaS) vendor market only continues to grow so there’s an abundance of options.
- Investigate: As the enterprise invests in the latest cloud-based platforms, it’s important for procurement teams to consider how these solutions will fit into the mobility trend. Is there a mobile app available for the solution? Is the app secure? These are key points to consider around every software purchase.
- Manage: IT teams must think about how they will manage mobile access to cloud-hosted platforms. Whether an organization is rolling out a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program or managing corporate-owned devices, there are mobility management tools available that can help streamline and secure mobile access to enterprise resources.
While the enterprise will realize many benefits with the move toward cloud and mobility, the real challenge will be implementing and integrating these trends cohesively and successfully. With the right execution, the cloud-first, mobile-first era will lead to exciting growth and progress for the enterprise.