Heading Off Hurricanes With Mobile Planning

By Jessica Binns, Contributing Writer — June 03, 2014

It’s that time of year already: the Atlantic hurricane season officially opened on June 1, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting as many as six hurricanes before the close of 2014—a relatively mild season because of weather phenomenon “El Niño.” Plus, unfortunately, natural disasters have hit many areas of the country recently.  
 
It only takes one storm, and not necessarily a severe one (Sandy is still remembered more as a superstorm than a hurricane, but no one can forget the damage left in its wake), to wreak devastation not only on citizens and residential properties but on businesses as well.
 
Successfully riding out a storm or any other disruptive event (the U.S. already has been rocked by a deadly April tornado in Alabama and May wildfires in California that forced the evacuation of a college campus, a nuclear plant and a military base) requires considerable advance planning. With mobile technology well integrated into enterprises today, however, it’s easier than ever to keep business going and employees connected—or to get back up and running quickly without sacrificing significant downtime—if you are prepared.
 
A Backup Plan
Employees have their smartphones and tablets, but does your enterprise have a backup plan? That is, is corporate data on mobile endpoints regularly backed up to a server or to a cloud service? In the report “Why Endpoint Backup Is More Critical Than Ever,” Forrester Research and Code42 discovered that a full 85% of surveyed enterprises report that business continuity was the top-of-mind concern when they implemented (or planned to implement) endpoint backup solutions. And for good reason: 27% of companies participating in the survey have suffered a permanent loss of data on an endpoint.
 
It seems there’s quite a bit of confusion among employees over whether or not their companies are backing up their mobile device data, especially in a BYOD world: more than 50% of survey respondents said they believe their enterprise backs up the most important data, even when that wasn’t actually the case, according to Forrester’s Devices And Security Workforce Survey, which was fielded in the second quarter of 2013.
 
As a result, workers try to take matters into their own hands, leading to another wild west phenomenon with endpoint backup. More than 40% of employees save important files on flash drives or CDs/DVDs, and nearly 30% turn to their own personal servers or external hard drives to backup data. It’s an IT executive’s worst nightmare; not only is the risk of a data breach multiplied but also there’s little transparency regarding what data is stored where.
 
Having a clearly communicated data backup plan should be a part of any mobile device deployment. Employees should know that if their device goes missing or is waterlogged from a hurricane or some other adverse advent, they can turn to a single centralized location to access their data and files. It’s especially important to communicate to workers that no matter who owns the endpoint—the enterprise or the employee—the company is responsible fo securing and backing up data.
 
Cloud services offer the most flexibility and peace of mind; even if they’re displaced and lose their corporate phones or tablets, employees armed with a login and password can use any internet-connected device to tap into backed up files with cloud solutions.
 
To understand the real cost of IT downtime, latisys, an IaaS provider offers an IT Disaster Downtime Calculator. It also offers
 
What About Partners?
Even when an enterprise does its part to draft a fully functional disaster recovery plan, it still has to rely on mission-critical partners, such as wireless carriers, to have their own business continuity solutions in place.
 
As Sprint continues to roll out its network nationwide, concentrating on storm-prone areas in the southeast, the carrier claims it now offers an improved footprint and overlap for cell sites that may become damaged, resulting in fewer blocked calls during sudden spikes in call volumes. Sprint also has installed generators at its entire fleet of wireless and wireline switches to reduce loss of power.
 
C-Spire, a regional carrier operating in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, constructed a pair of “super switches” in Mobile, AL., and Hattiesburg, MI., that can withstand Category 5 hurricane-force winds, housing backup generator and other redundant systems to ensure consistent coverage during storms.
 
“C Spire also relies on an extensive network of microwave technology that can circumvent damaged or destroyed landline systems and ensure that wireless calls can be routed to their final destination," said C-Spire’s VP of network operations Eric Hollingsworth. “This microwave technology is critical to support communications during natural disasters when landline systems are inoperable.”
 
Verizon also has reinforced assets in North Carolina ahead of the hurricane season in the storm-prone state. Beyond expanding XLTE, which doubles the capacity over its 4G network, the carrier has readied mobile cells and generators on vehicles for rapid deployment to hard-hit areas and set up fuel deliveries for generators to ensure consistent network performance.
 
AT&T has a Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) Team whose mission it is to recover AT&T voice and data service network elements to an area affected by a disaster. The company says that NDR has three primary goals: to route non-involved telecommunications traffic around an affected area; to give the affected area communications access to the rest of the world; to recover communications service to a normal condition as quickly as possible through restoration and repair.
 
AT&T has invested more than $600 million in its U.S. and team members have spent more than 125,000 working hours on field exercises and deployments over the last two decades, according to the company.
 
Whichever providers you use, be sure to get a clear understanding of their plan of action when emergencies arise, and disseminate this information to key stakeholders in your enterprise. It can also be wise to include disaster preparedness in your service-level objectives. 

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