Disaster Recovery vs. Business Continuity for Voice and Data

 

Every enterprise, agency and municipality should have a carefully created disaster recovery plan in place. The wise Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail.” Once an unforeseen disaster strikes without sufficient contingency plans in place an agency can find itself reacting and trying to mitigate losses instead of executing the recovery plan and acting swiftly and decisively.

 

What is the difference between Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity?

Business continuity involves maintaining seamless access to voice and data services in the event of an outage. If executed properly, end users and customers should not notice any degradation of resources once the continuity plan has been enacted in the event of any type of outage of primary communications.

 

Disaster recovery plans are utilized to insure that mission critical voice and data resources are maintained under worst-case scenarios. In these instances the goal is not to maintain all levels of services and connectivity. During a catastrophic situation resources and efforts are shifted to maintain and support the primary mission to protect lives and property. Each agency must define which capabilities must be maintained at all costs based on the function of their organization.

 

Types of Disasters:

 

Natural Disasters

The past year has been tough for many people and communities as we have seen record-breaking fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters around the globe. Unfortunately here at X2nSat we got an up-close and personal view of the destruction that can occur when historic fires roared through much of Sonoma County. Mother Nature never takes a year off, so organizations must assume that these types of events will continue to occur and be prepared.

 

  • Hurricane
  • Flood
  • Fire
  • Earthquake
  • Tornado

 

Man Made Disasters

These are the more common causes of disasters, yet we think about them less because they do not attract the media attention that natural disasters do and they typically don’t cause a direct threat to human lives. These types of outages can be created by human/systemic failures as well as the impact of a natural disaster:

 

  • Wireline/Fiber cut
  • Cell Site failure
  • Cellular Network infrastructure failure
  • Power Failure
  • Utility poles/lines damaged

 

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FEMA Photo by George Armstrong

 

3 types of disaster recovery solutions:

 

Wireline

This option can be fairly simple to put in place as it is usually similar to the local broadband connectivity options that many organizations use for their primary voice and data connection. WIreline options are easy to accommodate within existing IT infrastructure and their pricing will be comparable to what an agency pays for their primary services.

It is important to note that if using wireline as a part of your disaster recovery plan to make sure that you have path diversity and don’t have your recovery voice and data following the same path as your primary connection. Selecting a secondary wireline provider that is different from your primary provider usually satisfies this requirement. Be sure to make sure you secondary provider is not purchasing bandwidth on the same “last mile” as your primary provider’s network.

 

Cellular

Using cellular as backup to your voice and data connectivity in the event of a disaster can be one of the easiest options to deploy. All that may be required is a router with an aircard from an equipment standpoint. A cellular solution is also cheaper than VSAT(described below) and may even be less than some wireline options.

Before utilizing cellular in your disaster recovery plan, make sure that there is ample coverage for all the locations that will need to maintain connectivity. Some portion of a cellular network may also utilize some wireline connectivity that could be susceptible in a disaster situation. Cellular networks also experience extremely high traffic in these scenarios as the general public as well as other agencies will utilize this easily accessible option.

 

Satellite (VSAT)

Utilizing VSAT technology in a disaster recovery plan may offer the most options to an agency or organization. VSAT can be deployed anywhere there is sufficient line of sight to the sky and provides the most path diversity as well. There is also no external competition for bandwidth as the general public and other organizations will not have access to this proprietary connection. Pricing on satellite services has also become more competitive recently with technological advancements and a growing number of satellite networks putting services in place.

While the most reliable option to maintain 24/7/365 backup connectivity as a part of a disaster recovery plan, VSAT’s initial equipment can be somewhat more expensive as compared to other options. Many organizations also do not think that their organization or agency is large enough or sophisticated enough to warrant a satellite option. Recent advancements in equipment and network capabilities have put the VSAT option within reach for most entities.

 

 

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Key Takeaways:

To formulate the best plan for your enterprise ask yourself a few critical questions while considering your potential risk factors.

 

What does my current plan for recovery for voice/data services look like? These plans should be updated/evaluated every year or as the scope of your operations/services changes significantly.

 

Do we have our critical need defined and covered? Remember, disaster recovery is different than business continuity. Focus on the mission your agency will need to fulfill in the event of a disaster.

 

Have we minimized potential competition for bandwidth with the public and other entities?

In a disaster of any kind, everyone will be scrambling and viable options will be taxed/overloaded with traffic.

 

Is our recovery plan path diverse?

The old adage, don’t put all your eggs in one basket says it best. Make sure your recovery plan includes options that are not the same as your primary means of connectivity.

 

Tim Aboudara is the Senior Sales Director at X2nSat, a full-service satellite network operator that provides satellite internet and voice services throughout North America and beyond.