How Unified Communications Supports Disaster Recovery

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Most people associate “disaster” with natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes. In the world of IT, natural disasters actually cause a small percentage of outages. Human error, power outages, equipment failure and cyberattack can knock a network offline, and they don’t require a major weather event to do serious damage.

Think about how your organization would suffer if your applications and data suddenly became unavailable. How would work get done? How would business operations be affected? How much money would be lost? How much would your reputation suffer? Despite the tremendous risk, many companies don’t implement disaster recovery and business continuity plans. Even if these plans are in place, many aren’t tested or kept up-to-date.

Disaster recovery and business continuity planning helps organizations prepare for and minimize the impact of a disaster or a smaller disruptive event. Disaster recovery refers to the processes an organization follows to resume normal business operations. Business continuity refers to more comprehensive processes that allow an organization to continue operating during and after a disaster.

Disaster recovery and business continuity plans should include:

  • Internal and external communications strategies with specific roles and responsibilities.
  • A threat analysis that identifies various types of threats and the risks they pose to your organization.
  • Instructions that explain where employees should go and how they should do their jobs should the primary worksite be unusable for any reason.
  • A business impact analysis that identifies essential systems and processes and how the organization would be affected if these systems were to go down.
  • Procedures for accessing backup systems while mission-critical systems are restored, repaired or replaced.
  • Scheduled reviews and testing of the plan, as well as employee training, to ensure that the plan works.

Notice that a communications strategy is at the top of the list. The ability to communicate without disruption is critical to not only continuing business operations, but also to ensuring the safety of your employees. Communication can be difficult when critical systems are down and each passing minute means more lost revenue or, even worse, increased risk of harm to your employees.

Unified communications (UC) can greatly enhance disaster recovery and business continuity planning. When all modes of communication and related data are integrated into a single platform, it becomes much easier for employees to share and receive information.

If an on-premises phone system is down, calls can be automatically routed to alternate sites or mobile phones. Employees can also switch to instant messaging or chat if voice communication is unreliable. Presence functionality can be used to locate an employee and determine the best way to get in touch with that person. In some cases, video applications can be used to assess the damage or aid first responders.

There are certain questions to ask when evaluating UC solutions as they relate to disaster recovery and business continuity planning. What communications services and interface options will be available during a disaster? How will users access backup systems? Can all applications be replicated or recovered? Will performance be affected? Does the UC provider have redundant systems if the primary data center goes down? Is the provider’s platform geographically diverse?

ShoreTel Connect has the versatility to deliver communications capabilities from an onsite system, the cloud or a combination of both. Not only does ShoreTel Connect provide flexibility and simplicity in case of a disaster, but it helps you take control of your communications costs. Let IPC show you how ShoreTel Connect can support your disaster recovery and business continuity plan.