Shore Up Before the Next Disaster Strikes

From time to time, we receive stark reminders of just how delicate our IT systems really are. Disaster preparation has risen to the top of the to-do list at many companies, thanks to the wrath of Hurricane Sandy several weeks ago. How can we maximize our chances of keeping communications open and data safe?

I will present two relatively new ideas you should consider. Whether you are responsible for a business or a family, these approaches are growing in popularity and worth a look.

My Pick of the Week is RIM. The company is surging with optimistic expectations for its imminent BlackBerry 10 launch.

Internet Telephony – VoIP

Believe it or not, Internet telephony has come a long way during the last decade and today is a good solution during a crisis. IP telephony has only been around for what, a decade or so? But it is starting to get attention as a disaster back-up plan, as well as for its cost savings and flexibility. When other services fail, Internet telephony can be a solution. I am not suggesting that any business cancel its existing services. It’s best to keep all of them active. I am simply saying add Internet telephony– it can make a difference.

Internet telephone is available from larger companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner. It is also available from smaller IP companies like RingCentral, which focuses on offering this kind of technology to the small business market.

Imagine being able to have control over your communications in a disaster — to log on and change how your telephone and other communications are handled. Rather than having calls directed to storm central, you can simply have them rerouted to other places in the country with a few clicks on a website.

Several months ago, I was briefed by the executive team at RingCentral and found their offering innovative. At that time, there were countless other ways to make a call, so the company didn’t stand out. Then Hurricane Sandy struck, and RingCentral popped back onto my radar screen as another alternative. Many companies use Internet telephony as their main communications service. Many also use it as part of their plan.

During the disaster of Hurricane Sandy, wireless, telephone and cable television companies generally handled things quite well, but there were still several outages in certain pockets that lasted for many days. For those affected customers, consumers and businesses, it was a disaster.Lesson learned? There is no one single solution that will cover you 100 percent. That’s why you are always better having multiple ways to communicate all up and running and all working together. When one is down, another may be working.

Cloud-Based Storage

Cloud-based services are making it possible for people and companies to save their data online rather than in their individual devices. They let them secure their data online and make it available whenever they can log on from a computer or Web-connected device. This is what large companies have been using for years. Now this solution is also available at the small business and consumer level, and it is redefining the space.

The cloud can be used for backing up your data or as an alternative to storing it on hard drives. It can be for individuals or entire companies. As we increasingly use tablets, smartphones and computers, the cloud makes more sense. That way, if a device should be destroyed, stolen or lost, you are not out of business. You simply log on to your cloud account from any other device, and you have access to all your data.

There are simple backup cloud services, like Carbonite and Mozy, which continually backup your data on your devices and keep it safe while you continue to use them and save your info to them.

Other services store your data when you are using your PC, tablet or smartphone. Rather than saving to a device hard drive, they save data online to the cloud account you have set up. Today you can save your information using Apple’s iCloud or Google Drive or Microsoft’s Skydrive service. There are other cloud-storage services available — like Amazon and Barnes & Noble — and many more coming. This is new.

The cloud has a dark side as well, however — security is not perfect. Generally speaking, cloud services are safe, but hackers break into secure sites all the time.

The Cloud is an idea that has plenty of pluses and minuses, but when it comes to disaster preparation, it’s a big plus.

The Bottom Line

These are two ideas to consider using which can help you through the next disaster and improve your efficiency. Just remember, natural or man-made disasters happen suddenly and can be devastating, so don’t wait till the next one strikes to make your move.

The best solution is to operate both your business and your personal life with several different technology options to help you stay backed up, online and protected. That way, if one goes down you still have options. BlackBerry was the No. 1 smartphone operating system until Google’s Android OS and Apple’s iOS edged it out. RIM has been struggling for several years trying to stop the bleeding.

I have a positive and hopeful soul, so I hope BB10 will be a big hit. Unfortunately, RIM has been shooting blanks for the last several years, so who knows at this point?

Let’s hope that this new RIM BB10 will be just what the company needs to start growing once again.

RIM must improve on these three areas:

  1. BB 10 must have a new and advanced Web browser that has things like easy zooming and synchronizing the Favorites from your laptop browser;
  2. It also must have valuable and important apps for its users; and
  3. RIM must be able to mount an extended, successful public relations effort.

If it can do these three things well, RIM can start its recovery. Let’s hope for the best. BlackBerry 10 is set to launch at the end of January 2013.

Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is anindustry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at [email protected].

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