Disaster Recovery for Critical Infrastructure

By Jeremy Ladner 10 min read

Critical Infrastructure is by definition, vital to the health, safety of civil society. The efficient operation of our power grid, water supply, fire department, and financial institutions relies on continuous modern communications and network connectivity. Any disruption can be dangerous or even deadly. It is our responsibility to ensure that all our critical infrastructure facilities have disaster recovery plans in place to deal with operational outages caused by natural disasters or malicious actors.

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Full Transcript:

Jeremy Ladner: When disaster strikes your critical infrastructure facility, will you have a connectivity recovery plan in place? Are you ready?

We're talking to Dimitri Vatistas, Ceragon's Sales Manager for Critical Infrastructure. On this episode of The Backhaul Lounge. ‘Disaster Recovery for Critical Infrastructure’. Hi Dimitri, thanks for joining us.

Dimitri Vatistas: Thanks for having me, Jeremy.

Jeremy Ladner: Great - So for those that are not familiar, what is Disaster Recovery for Critical Infrastructure Connectivity, and why is it so important?

Dimitri Vatistas: That's a mouthful. But basically what can go wrong will go wrong. With that said, the Disaster Recovery Program for Critical Infrastructure is making sure that, once your network goes down, especially in the public safety sector, electric power, utilities, transportation - because a lot of mission-critical applications are very dependent on the network. How do we put in place a program to make sure that we can mitigate downtime specifically for a lot of these organizations that are very dependent on the network? And at some point, you know, lives are at stake.

Jeremy Ladner: Okay, so being prepared is key. Putting together a plan with multiple layers of redundancies and backups, and backups for your backups is incredibly important. From your experience, what would you say are the items that should be at the top of everyone's list when they're putting together their Critical Infrastructure Disaster Recovery Plan?

Dimitri Vatistas: So, we've simplified this Disaster Recovery Program to about four steps. The first one would be understanding your network. What do you currently have in place? What is currently in place? What are some of the applications? What are some of the devices? You know what is very crucial to this particular network.

With that said, your second step is understanding your vulnerabilities. Nothing is perfect in this world, no matter how you plan or engineer, there are going to be vulnerabilities in the network. At least what we could do is we could also identify those vulnerabilities and plan for if there is a disaster that does occur, making sure that those vulnerabilities are at least, you know, there's some type of redundancy within that to make sure if your network will go down.

Your third step would be the implementation of this particular Disaster Recovery Program. So once disaster does strike, execute the prior plan that's put in place, make sure everything is up and running, whatever you've planned for. You know, we follow the steps. Obviously, there's going to have to be some type of slight modifications because, you know, whenever you plan forward, there's always a curveball being thrown. But at least the bulk of it will be looked at.

The fourth is the recovery stage. So the recovery stages, once the Disaster Recovery Program is put in place, the communications on a lot of these mission-critical networks are up and running. How do we get the original network back to its original state pre-disaster?

Jeremy Ladner: So, I'm guessing with the high-stakes reality of Critical Infrastructure that you and the Ceragon team probably have some pretty incredible stories about helping organizations out of some difficult situations. Can you give us some real-world examples of Critical Infrastructure Disaster Recovery that you and the team have worked on? Maybe some instances where people had planned in advance or maybe they hadn't planned and wish they had. What can you share with us?

Dimitri Vatistas: Absolutely. Due to the sensitivity of a lot of the organizations in the public safety sector, the utility sector, I can't name customers, but I can give two specific examples. The first example was a utility in February of 2020 that had contacted us and the individual at this particular organization was concerned because COVID was starting to ramp up. It was all over the news. They were concerned that if they would have to shut down their main facility, you know, can they find an alternative facility if the main facility was compromised and get connectivity and make sure that all their applications and their networks are up and running on their day to day operations, which were mission critical because they are utilities. So at that point, lives were at stake.

So we actually did a couple of preliminary engineering in terms of microwave links to these particular locations. So once those locations were identified and we made sure that we could bring connectivity via wireless to these locations in April of 2020, we actually had to execute that plan because their main facility was compromised, unfortunately, but we were able to get them up and running in no time to the point where their customers and even a lot of the employees of that organization didn't even - weren't even impacted, or didn't feel an impact, if you will.

The second example, which was a great example, was actually in the Northeast for a public safety organization. They were worried that if one of their assets was compromised for their PUSH-TO-TALK radio system, there were going to be outages and dead spots within the location that they were looking at. So we worked with them to build a custom solution where it's a portable case that acts as

a repeater. And if that didn't work, we also had a backup satellite redundancy, believe it or not, for this particular location.

So if one of the assets were compromised, the outage we were looking at would be about four-minutes of downtime before we could get them up and running with their communications back to normal on the public safety side.

Jeremy Ladner: Yeah, listen, it's always great to have professionals in your corner. And I would imagine never more so than when you're dealing with disaster and network downtime that can be dangerous and obviously incredibly expensive.

I'm imagining that right now there is someone watching this who is a leader responsible for a Critical Infrastructure Facility and they are reflecting on their level of preparedness or perhaps their lack of, and they're thinking, hmm, maybe we can do better. Maybe we should do better.

Knowing that, and knowing that many infrastructure facilities are part of the public sector and public sector often means long lead times for getting budget approval… And I'm pretty sure I know the answer to at least the first part of this question, but what would you recommend to people in terms of when they should get started and how they should get started?

Dimitri Vatistas: So, the question is when? It would be right away. The beautiful thing about inquiries, they are free. It is always good to inquire sooner rather than later. We all know in the public sector very lengthy processes, budgets, resource allocation, etc., etc. So you can reach out to us ASAP and at least, engage in a conversation and understanding what type of vulnerabilities you have, understanding your network, and the proper steps to take in order to put this Disaster Recovery Plan in place.

Now, thankfully, we are in 2022. We do live in the digital age. There are a plethora of ways of getting in touch with us - via LinkedIn, email – dimitriv@ceragon.com, or even on our website, just go to www.Ceragon.com and click on Contact Us, you know, we'd be more than happy to get back to you.

Jeremy Ladner: Excellent, Dmitri. I think that's a great place to wrap it up. Thank you so much for your time. Certainly appreciate it.

Dimitri Vatistas: Likewise, Jeremy. Thank you.

Jeremy Ladner: And thanks to all of you for watching. If you'd like to know more about putting together a Critical Infrastructure Recovery Plan, feel free to reach out to Dmitri and his team. Until next time. I'm Jeremy Ladner, and this is Ceragon’s Backhaul Lounge.

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