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Big Business re: What to do When the Plug is Pulled on the Net

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Author Topic: Big Business re: What to do When the Plug is Pulled on the Net  (Read 154 times)
Bad Penny
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« on: February 09, 2011, 01:28:24 am »

Like I said: I'm having the most enormous trouble posting this particular piece, for no reason I'm able to explain.

I offer this piece as a complement to the excellent article by Liberty News Online re-published by entitled: "How to Communicate if the Government Shut Down the Internet".

I further offer this piece in memory of my father, who passed away this past Friday.  His encouragement of my writing ability truly shaped the course of my life.

This piece is entitled: "Egypt, blizzards hold lessons for surviving Internet outages", and it's available at:

Carmi Levy, On Monday February 7, 2011, 12:45 pm EST

Could you survive without the Internet? If you or your company suddenly lost all online access, would you know what to do to keep your life and your business moving forward?

The notion of immediate and complete loss of connectivity isn't as preposterous as we'd like to think. Recent events near and far from home have reinforced just how fragile online access can be, and how ill-prepared most of us are for an unplanned return to pre-Internet life.

The Egyptian government's move to shut down all Internet access within its borders in the wake of massive protests holds lessons for Internet users around the globe, but it isn't the only source of worry.

Autocratic leadership half a world away may not directly affect your ability to stay visible to and connected with your most important stakeholders, but an epic blizzard like the one that shut down large chunks of Ontario in December just might.

Indeed, outages can come from anywhere: A misplaced backhoe can cut access for a few blocks, while a major fire in a switching station can take down a city.

These seemingly disconnected events reinforce just how uncontrollable an outage can be. More importantly, they serve as stark reminders of what happens when our critical business tools suddenly vanish:

Email. Nothing goes out or in. Delivery failure messages, inconsistent at the best of times, may not advise correspondents that you've electronically dropped off the face of the earth.

Web access. Losing the ability to surf is bad enough. Companies with any sort of Web presence could also disappear from view. E-commerce quickly becomes no-commerce.

Phone. Think your phone is immune from this kind of thing? Think again. The accelerating shift to Internet-based VoIP phones means your headset is just as vulnerable to Internet outages as your keyboard and mouse.

The bad news is no one individual or organization can stop an outage from happening. The good news: What happens afterward is entirely up to us. As rare as total Internet outages are, end users at work and at home have many options to minimize the disruption and bottom-line damage. Like a good disaster recovery plan, a strategy for surviving a total Internet outage can provide quickly available alternatives for keeping the proverbial lights on.

Grab a smartphone. If your broadband cable or DSL connection is down, you may be able to make do with a smartphone or tablet in a pinch. Increasingly powerful mobile devices coupled with high-capacity 3G and, soon, 4G networks make switching to mobile an easy choice when broadband goes down. Plan for the possibility by reviewing your wireless plan and having mobile applications in place to support basic workflow.

Stick it. If ditching your desktop or laptop PC is too much of a switch, USB 3G network sticks are an easy alternative for a seamless transition. Have a few extras on hand, and work with your wireless provider to ensure the data plans that go along with them make sense for your budget. Some laptops even come with this capability right from the factory: Something to consider when refreshing your hardware.

Go low-tech. Few things are as robust as yesterday's technologies. That old dial-up modem may be laughably slow by today's standards, but as Egyptian protesters have learned, it's still a great alternative means of low-bandwidth connectivity especially when cell networks are also down.

You won't be streaming videos or holding Skype-based conference calls, but for basic e-mail and stripped-down Web activity try using mobile-optimized sites to minimize otherwise-brutal load times it'll do the job. Many ISPs have retained a few dial-up lines precisely for this purpose. Don't forget fax machines, either, as they've proven particularly adept at staying connected when everything else goes down. If you're using an IP-based phone, keep a conventional line and handset handy.

Educate yourself and your users. Internet outage game plans won't succeed unless you and your team know they exist and understand what to do. Document the process in an easily available form on the company Intranet or wiki, as well as paper-based copies and make sure everyone signs off on it. Review and test the plan periodically because systems and technology continue to evolve, and people have short memories.
Finally, don't forget to communicate with key external stakeholders. The more they know about your alternative plans, the easier it'll be to connect with them if the worst-case-scenario actually occurs.

We can't prevent mass Internet outages any more than we can stop power failures, but we can significantly improve our potential for productivity by planning ahead and thinking creatively. As we continue to rely more heavily on Internet connectivity for even basic daily functionality, an outage strategy becomes that much more crucial.
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