In the wake of the recent Optus outage, organisations are again reminded of their reliance on critical communications infrastructure, and the impact to their organisation if this is not available for an extended period. While many organisations will be looking to move from Optus, it is important to remember that all carriers have experienced outages such as this, with experts warning that coverage blackouts could happen again. With the impacts of this outage fresh in the minds of organisational leaders, rather than impulsively switching carriers, now is an opportune time to prioritise engaging in conversations about “business continuity”.
When considering protecting communications infrastructure, it is a very simple option to have two of everything with different carriers, but for not-for-profit organisations with tight budgets, this is a cost that is most likely too excessive to be feasible, even for critical infrastructure. Deciding on a proportional response to this issue, which are technologically and financially responsible, and appropriate for your organisation is vital.
Below we offer practical strategies for managing change, optimising current technology, and effectively executing strategies to bridge the gap between planning and implementation.
Understanding the risks
We need to prepare for a future where these outages are not only possible, but likely. The best we can do is learn and prepare so that we can minimise their impact and ensure your organisation is adequately protected. Diversifying providers, implementing secondary systems, and having well-prepared contingency plans are key steps to protecting your operations.
Failing to take action to safeguard against outages to critical communications infrastructure can have devastating consequences for organisations. By ensuring you have a comprehensive understanding of the risks involved and by staying vigilant and proactive, you can navigate telco outages with resilience and confidence.
What service (and compensation) to expect from your supplier
A key focus following the Optus outage surrounds compensation, which may come in the form of additional services or outright credits. Impacted organisations need to ensure they have reviewed their contracts and service level agreements (SLAs) to gain an understanding of what they can expect and what they’re entitled to.
Proper documentation is critical when seeking compensation, as such, we offer the below key recommendations:
Record the conditions you experienced, including the date, time, duration, and impact on your business operations.
Collect any evidence such as service logs, communication records and customer complaints.
To prepare for future outages, set up a process with defined responsibilities, in which this type of information is collected in real time.
Getting credits from telcos is not a quick or easy process. As our telco management team will attest, this can be an arduous process that requires persistence and time.
Preparing for future outages
Critical first steps in any conversation on business continuity is understanding what you are trying to protect, what you are protecting them from, and finally, working closely with technology teams and partners to determine how you can protect your critical business communications infrastructure. Organisations need to establish robust business continuity and disaster recovery plans to handle any major outage. This should include well defined roles and responsibilities, communication protocols with employees, and alternative methods for conducting business operations.
Having a well-prepared plan, including network and systems configuration documentation, can help minimise the impact of an outage and reduce downtime. Outside of the organisation, the first port of call should always be a strong relationship with your telco or managed service provider with open lines of communication. This includes regular discussion of your business's needs and expectations, ensuring that your provider is aware of the critical role their services play in your operations. In the event of an outage, this relationship can be instrumental in expediting the resolution process with your priority in mind.
Redundancy and resilience
To help safeguard against lengthy resolution times, diversification of telco carriers and modern data and voice-over data networks, which are designed independently of any specific carrier, could have allowed organisations to switch to a secondary carrier, maintained voice and internet services and saved themselves and their clients a lot of angst and lost productivity. Depending on the size and layout of the organisation, that switch could utilise mobile or satellite links and does not have to entail the installation of high-cost redundant infrastructure. In addition, most large telcos offer a pay as you go plan that can be quickly activated for an alternative service in times like these.
While organisations with in-house systems could continue to utilise their office operations, one of the benefits of cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) is that the systems shouldn’t care how the data gets to them and will function the same under any telco network connection from any location. So, if your primary telco carrier goes down, you can switch your link to another carrier, or people can work from another building with another telco network. Many phone systems are now offering SaaS call routing and PABX services with links to multiple telco carriers.
There are now even more modern satellite-based internet services, such as Starlink that don’t rely on physical infrastructure in your building or a local carrier. Read more about Starlink here or get on touch and we can talk to you about our Starlink service SpaceX’s Starlink Satellite.
Keep your people in the know
An important part of any Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is making sure that clear information about the situation is provided to staff, clients, and partners. Websites, Intranets and social media have emerged as primary hubs for information consumption during critical situations due to the immediacy and widespread accessibility. Leveraging these platforms effectively, alongside other communication mediums, can assist in ensuring that important updates reach your audience promptly.
Key tasks for NFPs to undertake before the next outage
Develop robust Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery plans with defined roles and alternative operation methods to reduce downtime.
Diversify telco carriers and implement secondary or backup systems and connections to ensure uninterrupted connectivity, even during network failures.
Consider utilising cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions that can seamlessly operate under different telco network connections, ensuring business continuity even when your primary telco carrier experiences downtime.
Maintain clear and multi-platform communication with staff, clients, and partners to minimise disruption and frustration during telco outages.
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