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Posted by Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D. on October 13, 2011
Business continuity is a top concern of global business and IT decision-makers. Headline news has made these concerns all the more acute – from the political unrest that characterized the “Arab Spring” and continues to plague certain countries in the Middle East to earthquakes, flooding, and other natural disasters across the globe. Those concerns become more acute as multinationals expand into new geographies such as Africa – a trend evidenced by recent announcements by HP and IBM.
Forrester’s Forrsights Budgets and Priorities Tracker Survey and Forrsights Business Decision-Makers Survey confirm that both IT and business decision-makers prioritize business continuity to ensure ongoing operations of their businesses. “Significantly upgrading disaster recovery and business continuity” was the third-highest IT priority of both IT and business decision-makers with 68% of each reporting it as a critical or high priority, behind only consolidation and greater use of analytics. That is to say, although cost controls through consolidation and better business intelligence came out ahead, keeping the lights on keeps corporate leaders up at night.
At a recent analyst event at Orange Business Service’s (OBS's) Major Service Center in Mauritius – one of four centers worldwide – that focus on business continuity was evident. OBS has certainly had experience with business continuity this year. Another of its major service centers is in Cairo, yet no downtime was recorded during the events earlier this year. When their business continuity plan was invoked, all calls were transferred to the three other centers in India, Mauritius, and Brazil. Business continuity plans were further tested throughout the year with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Internet cable cuts have also been a concern – either by accident as is frequently the case or intentional cuts as was recently the case in Armenia where theft of copper cabling was the objective.
In addition to distributed call centers, OBS leverages France Telecom's (FT's) investment in networks throughout Africa – with an additional €750 million invested in 2011 in submarine cables and cross-Africa terrestrial network development. FT first invested in cables running down the West Coast and around the Southern tip of Africa and connecting with India and Malaysia; these cables came online in 2002. More recently FT has invested in a number of new cables with Lower Indian Ocean Network (LION) in 2009, EASSy in 2010, and LION2 and Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) expected to come online in 2012. The intent is to provide cable station diversity so as to prevent a single point of failure.
In addition, FT has worked to build out terrestrial coverage via a range of network options. The availability of hybrid or heterogeneous networks in most African countries facilitates contingency plans to ensure business continuity. For example, business VPN for industrial sites, branch offices, and regional headquarters is supported by fiber/Ethernet in 12 countries, WIMAX/Wireless Local Loop in 12 countries, Local Loop in 41 countries, and satellite in all countries serving remote locations and providing premium availability. The options provide backup alternatives if necessary. In the case of their own Major Service Center in Mauritius, the SAT3- WASC-SAFE cable system is supported by LION as a backup link to and from the island. The redundant cable system ensures uptime.
Building a secure and redundant network is a first step toward business continuity. But the processes and the experience in dealing with a crisis event is as valuable as the physical infrastructure. Given the investments in robust networks and continuity during the recent crisis times, OBS should be making more noise about its own business continuity and that of their customers during the events of this spring and summer. It’s a story worth telling.
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