Does your company have a communications backup plan?

Learn about some options for keeping your employees informed in the event of an natural emergency or network failure.

Companies today have a backup plan for everything it seems.

They backup data no less than once daily, mirror key servers, attach UPS devices to desktop computers and have emergency generators on hand in case of a power failure. They throw up firewalls and implement security measures to keep intruders out and to make sure sacred data is kept in.

Well, that's all good for getting the company back to square one in the event of a network failure. But what about a backup plan for keeping the business flow going, even if it's just a trickle, during the network disaster? Communication among employees, and between the company and its clients, is critical to weathering even the briefest episode of network downtime.

Depending on what portion of your network has failed, and therefore which applications are on the fritz, businesses can put a tiered communications policy in place in order to inform employees that there is a problem and what time they expect it to be resolved.

  • Option 1: The most obvious way to send an IT update is via e-mail ,of course. But what if e-mail is one of the affected applications? That's why a second option needs to be considered.

  • Option 2: Sending a broadcast voicemail is another obvious communications solution. But I'd like to add something more cutting edge as option 2b. Presence software, which was all the talk at last week's VoiceCon, is still an emerging technology, yet it seems to have some practical, real-world uses. One advantage is that a single click of a mouse can send a company-wide voicemail message indicating that there is a network problem. Presence software broadcasts can follow up with updates, including the one that says 'we're back in action." Of course, if the presence server or its related components are affected, then you need to move on to Option 3.

  • Option 3: Instant messaging is probably as good a solution as presence software, but it's just not as sexy because it's not cutting edge. Still, blasting an IM to employees, who will presumably keep the work flow going by finding an alternative way to reach customers, is a good practice to add to the communications backup policy. Again, this assumes that IM traffic is flowing unimpeded.

If all else fails and network-based communication is simply not an option, there is always the public network: cell phones and landline telephones. The key thing is that corporate policy includes an action item that dictates how quickly employees are alerted about the problem the IT staff is experiencing. Beyond that, it's a matter of figuring out which technology can help get the job done efficiently … so that employees can continue doing theirs.

This was last published in March 2006

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