What if Your Computer Room had a Fire or Flood?

by Jeff Wiener on November 8, 2010

The picture you see at left of the burnt Norstar is the end result of a phone call that we received last Monday from a Digitcom customer.

The cleaning staff had inadvertently left a mop leaning against a heating duct, the mop caught fire, and in turn the phone system and computer cable caught fire. Luckily it happened on Monday morning when there were people in the building who smelled the smoke, the fire dept was called, the fire was contained, and the damage to the rest of the building was minimized.

Nevertheless, this picture clearly illustrates how quickly something can go wrong, and offers a strong case for why you should have a disaster recovery plan in place. In this particular case, the school had an action plan that they immediately put into effect, utilizing prearranged plans with other schools in the area to use their extra space to house classes. With such foresight, despite the minor disaster, everything transitioned incredibly smoothly.

Unfortunately for that school, however, it was one of thousands of organizations across the country that doesn’t currently have a tech recovery plan in place, meaning that their phones rang with no answer for days until Digitcom installed a replacement system. While disasters like this don’t happen every day, when they do they can temporarily cripple an organization, and for many that means lost revenue, frustrated clients, and widespread confusion. But as this school learned this past week, in this modern age a well defined comprehensive action plan and emergency preparedness can mitigate business loss.

There are many elements to a comprehensive disaster response plan, telecommunications being but one of the many points of consideration and the only one I will address as part of this post.

What could the school have done?

Most of the Tier 1 telecommunications providers, like Bell Canada for instance, have an emergency redirect service, a helpful tool that customers can setup in advance that is activated by simply calling a phone number and requesting a redirect to the predetermined alternate. It takes mere minutes to make the call and initiate the redirect, but the question remains, where would you send your calls?

If your company has two or more offices, you could of course redirect the calls to another office. Otherwise, the call redirect service allows users to send the calls to a cellphone or perhaps even a staff member’s home phone. Either way, having such a service in place is sure to save you, and thousands of other businesses, the headache of having to think about your telecommunications needs in the midst of a crisis.

But what happens if the phone lines are okay but your phone system itself dies? Here at Digitcom we have quite a number of clients who have a spare phone system pre-programmed, always on, and ready-to-go. If the system dies, correcting the problem is as easy as moving some cables around and you’re back in business.

If you happen to be running a PRI, you should always have back-up analog line(s) so that in the event your PRI dies or phone system fails, the PRI will overflow to an analog line. A safe rule of thumb is one analog line per PRI, so a company with 3 PRI’s should have at least a minimum of 3 analog lines. A more complex network design would have the PRI circuit overflow to a SIP trunk, and the SIP trunk could even overflow to a second back-up phone system either local on the LAN, or even WAN.

Remember, the purpose of this post is not to scare you into a kneejerk response, but instead to get you thinking of what if….

So if you’re concerned that your business may not have the comprehensive disaster response plan in place to cope with either major or minor disasters, if perhaps you have questions about your telecommunications system, or if you’re simply wondering what a PRI circuit or a SIP trunk is, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Written by: Jeff Wiener. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Identi.ca, or Friendfeed

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