Aug 23, 2012

The six keys to disaster preparedness: Communication best practices

Ansley Kilgore

The six keys to disaster preparedness: Communication best practicesWelcome to the fifth installment of a six-part series on disaster preparedness and the importance of choosing a data center services provider that can handle emergencies. We’ve gone through the essentials of disaster-resistant design and infrastructure, documented response plans, mock drills, preventative maintenance and are now moving on to communication best practices. Command and control is essential in managing any crisis. You should expect to be notified of any potential business-impacting event as well as to receive timely, detailed updates throughout. It’s best to look for a data center provider that has the resources and ability to proactively communicate information relative to their business operations.

It’s also a good idea for your provider to house its Network Operations Centers (NOCs) in geographically separate, redundant locations and have them staffed 24/7 so that all customers can be kept apprised of any situation that might affect their business. In the event of a disaster, the NOC becomes the focal point for both internal and customer communications ensuring timely, accurate and ongoing updates regarding any event that may be occurring in data centers around the country.

Customer Communications
Geographically-disparate NOCs provide the redundancy to maintain a network should one facility fail within an event that impacts an entire region. The site data center operations team should notify the NOC quickly – ideally within 15 minutes of an event – and provide timely updates via systems like email, SMS and conference bridges, among other methods. In addition, the NOC should have the ability to monitor the data center’s Building Monitoring System (BMS) so NOC engineers have first-hand knowledge of equipment alarms that may be occurring. The integration of BMS with the NOC, the conference bridge for real-time communications and cell phones with SMS capabilities provided to all site operations personnel provide a strong foundation for customer communications.

Ensure that your provider can facilitate effective communications during an event via a clear chain of command, a solid plan for keeping you up to date, and published escalation procedures. They should be prepared to answer detailed “what, when, where, why and how” questions. Documenting a detailed log of events will be extremely useful for a “postmortem” discussion after the event.

In our next segment on data center disaster preparedness, we’ll discuss the importance of having the right people in place to handle an unexpected failure or emergency.

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Ansley Kilgore

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