“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” – John F. Kennedy.
Wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes. Terrorism and violence. Cyber-attacks, chemical spills, pandemics. Disasters are an unfortunate part of today’s reality, and taking a good hard look at their potential impacts before they strike could save us a great deal of heartache later on.
ARE YOU PREPARED?
Disaster. Not exactly the uplifting, feel-good imagery we conjured up in our blog post about Wireless and Fiber Hybrid Networks calling for peace and love. Quite the opposite, I’m afraid. Regardless of the type of disaster, and unfortunately, there are many, one of the defining elements is a disaster’s assuredness to trigger chaos, instability, uncertainty, and oftentimes devastation to the communities impacted. The element of surprise also factors in when considering the extent of devastation inflicted.
It’s part of the human condition to avoid thinking deeply and purposefully about the potential for devastating events. For good reason, we tend to brush those thoughts off with the age-old, “it’ll never happen to us…here.”
But it could. As an industry, we know that when disaster strikes, there are numerous vulnerabilities that can impact the wellbeing and safety of communities. We depend on the ongoing functioning of all Critical Infrastructure and Telecom communications. Among these organization types are Law Enforcement, Fire, and Emergency Response; Energy and Utilities; Water and Sanitation; Mobile, Phone, and Internet Providers; Transportation, Healthcare, and others. At the hardest of times, connecting first responders, rescue services, volunteers, and survivors, family members, and loved ones – is priority number one. And without access to voice, data, and internet, the rest of any organization’s disaster recovery plan is virtually worthless.
We, as a telecommunications solutions provider, are in the business of connecting people and systems, and are committed to helping our customers stay connected when things go south. We all depend on vital services and public safety personnel to be there when we need them most. But they depend on their network stability to keep them operational, connected, and updated on any situation. If communication channels go down and cannot be restored quickly, lives are at stake.
The onus is on us to help our critical infrastructure and telecom customers to create a plan.
BUSINESS CONTINUITY VERSUS DISASTER RECOVERY
So, how do you prepare your network for the unknown?
First, we need to take a step back and understand the difference between a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan. Oftentimes, we see these terms used interchangeably, but to be well equipped and ready to face a disaster, you need to have both plans in place.
Believe it or not, business continuity planning (BCP,) as a methodology, came to the forefront in the late 1990s as many businesses scrambled to prepare for what we now laughingly look back on as the infamous Y2K bug issue. And although we joke about the world’s collective paranoia which certainly got the best of us back then, having a solid BCP in place for any business today is no joking matter.
Regardless of the type of organization you run, whether you are a municipality, an Internet Service Provider, Telecom Operator, Rural Broadband Operator, a utility, or a public safety organization, it is imperative that you have a BCP and a disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place. So how do you get there? Where do you start?
PROACTIVE NETWORK PLANNING: BUILDING IN REDUNDANCIES AND BACKUPS
Putting together a business continuity plan means proactively outlining how you will keep your network (and business) operational in the event of a disaster. This high-level operational plan includes building key redundancies into your network design that also strategically takes disaster recovery into account.
So what does THAT mean?
Well, let’s say a hurricane hits and wipes out key sites or assets in your service area. If you’ve got redundancies built into your network, that means you’ve got options and alternative paths ready to go live when needed. So, when a site in your network goes down, you can swiftly make adjustments to your network, and simultaneously go in and erect a temporary network extension almost anywhere by deploying your ready-and-waiting, custom cell-on-wheels (COW).
Wait, you say, “I don’t have a custom COW ready and waiting.” It’s ok, we’re getting ahead of ourselves again. We’ll get to the benefits of having a cell-on-wheels on hand when you start into your more specific disaster recovery plan.
It’s easy to understand, then, why these two terms, business continuity and disaster recovery, are commonly used interchangeably. In our world, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the two, and things can get confusing. The way we see it, a BCP helps you to plan and maintain a robust network with built-in redundancies that can handle any increased throughput and capacity demands that a temporary network extension, or potentially lifesaving applications added to the network might bring. We see the disaster recovery plan, a subset of the overarching BCP, as a proactive plan you have in place so that you can react to an emergency outage effectively and efficiently.
PLANNING TO REACT: BEING READY TO ROLL WHEN DISASTER STRIKES
So now we know the disaster recovery plan is a subset of the BCP and involves a detailed, multi-step, multi-technology plan that focuses on restoring critical systems and service as quickly as possible after a disaster has occurred. For a communications network, disaster recovery plans often also include rapidly deployable network extension plans, using a variety of technologies (LTE, Wi-Fi, and others) to provide temporary deployments. You can plan ahead for these potentially life-saving networks by utilizing predictive analysis to work through and target potential network failure points in your network.
Some features of a good disaster recovery plan for network operators include:
- Key people and contact information
- Purpose and scope of the plan
- Comprehensive mapping of your network, because remember, every network is different
- Predictive analysis for a plan of action when there is a point(s) of failure in your network
- Having the right COW - emergency deployable units, or portable cell sites, on hand and readily available in case of emergency
- Ongoing network monitoring and modernization
- Testing disaster recovery plans at regular intervals and updating accordingly
- Step-by-step procedures for restoring network operations, connectivity, and/or devices
Every organization, and therefore every network, is different – different geographies, different infrastructure, different business processes…simply put, different needs.
And with different needs, comes different and often very customized solutions. We get that.
It’s easy for us to tell you to write up this fancy plan, and then follow it line by line if something terrible happens. That’s easier said than done when facing a catastrophic and often chaotic situation. That’s why we’re here to help you get on top of this and think through the unthinkable together.
So, while every organization and network is unique, the process to follow in preparing for a disaster is almost always the same.
CERAGON'S 5 STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TODAY TO START A BUSINESS CONTINUITY AND DISASTER RECOVERY PROGRAM:
We hope you never get to number 4 in this list, but if you do, we hope that you’ll get at least some relief with the prior three steps having been done, tested, and updated regularly.
- Understand your network. We will work with you today to inventory and map out your entire network using our advanced, proprietary software. This process is essential in order to create a digital twin which enables you to visualize what you have, where you have it, and what it’s doing for you today. It doesn’t matter which vendor’s equipment, you can rest assured, we will see it and we’ve got your back.
- Understand your vulnerabilities. Once we have your network mapped as it stands today, we can pinpoint potential vulnerabilities. We also can run advanced predictive analyses to test “if->then” scenarios.Then, design your backup plans based on our findings.
- Write out the plan. Include as many details as possible. This is probably one of the hardest parts, so we’re here to help support you as much or as little as needed.
- Implement your Disaster Recovery plan. In the event of a disaster, implement your plan. Remember, part of your plan can include deploying your COW or getting help from off-site support – like Ceragon Networks
- Recover to original state. Once the storm has settled, it’s time to restore your network to its original state, pre-disaster. We’re here at every step of the journey.
Cybersecurity preparedness can add an even more complex layer to any disaster recovery plan. Keep an eye out for a blog article and white paper on the topic, where we will shed light on the issue of cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure and Telecom organizations.
If you’re reading this blog, and ready to take some steps forward in preparation, or even just want to hear more about how we can help get you started, we’d love to talk to you. Our experts have years of experience in this space and help you plan your next move to prepare for the unthinkable.
Want to learn more?