Resilient communication plans are second nature in the military environment where command and control is critical to the successful outcome of an operation. This should be no different in the commercial world. Reliance on a single communications network could impact day to day operations if that network was compromised, degraded or worst case crashed. For example, due to the current coronavirus climate, we now find ourselves working from home relying on adhoc social media platforms and untested communication links that may not prove as resilient as we thought.
A robust and tested business continuity communications plan is therefore critical in today’s highly connected market place. Having a secure ‘primary’ voice and data network is a must for day to day company emails, presentations, video conferencing and daily administration. Now take that communications network link away due to a cyber-attack or a CBRN incident. Such an attack would deny use of your business location and potentially the communications network associated with it. What do you have to provide the same level of service and engagement for your employees and customers? This is your first key question!
A secondary communications network whether at a different physical location or cloud based (though even cloud based must be physically located somewhere) is a given but how would you access that system if your company was denied access to its normal offices and without secure connectivity? Now you are starting to think about alternative communication links…..;-)
Connectivity can be via several mediums such as simply logging onto your Company VPN and accessing your IT systems via the Internet. However some locations may not have the bandwidth you would have normally enjoyed in a controlled company location. This can lead to longer delays in large files been transferred or downloaded and video conferencing becoming blocky and frustrating with large amounts of staff logging on leading to repeat questions and longer meeting times.
Various solutions are available such as data compression software to reduce your data by up to 90%, saving costly bandwidth or providing your company with 90% more capability for the same bandwidth cost depending on how you look at it. Video compression software is also available where video is used extensively allowing for better connectivity for Video conferences, which in turn saves repeated questions and ultimately also saving costs with lower bandwidths required.
This is all achievable where your company personnel are located geographically close by i.e. in the same country. But if you have personnel deployed overseas in areas where communications are not as easily accessible or have been compromised how do you communicate effectively with them to ensure business continuity? Now you are starting to think about global alternative communication links….!
Global connectivity utilising data and video compression tools through tactical communications such as IP and radio networks enables local communications to remain resilient and functional in the event of loss of standard primary communication networks. The ability to connect these local tactical communication links via non-terrestrial communication links such as satellite systems enables you to connect to a globally dispersed network. However non-terrestrial communication links have cost implications. Compression tools will greatly help with costs over satellite bearers.
This is of course only a snapshot of various ways to communicate globally, which should be incorporated into your business continuity communications plan. Once you have a plan it needs to be both tested and exercised periodically against the expected and unexpected to ensure a smooth transition from primary to secondary communication links in order to allow business as usual ! As they saying goes “Fail to prepare, Prepare to Fail” !
About the author
Gavin Smillie served with the Royal Signals, British Army for 24 years travelling the globe and providing communication links over long distances for both radio and IT networks from cosy operations rooms to dusty and self-contained remote operation rooms, from single link operations to large scale operation rooms during peace and conflict. He has now worked within the commercial communications arena for the last 10 years providing services and products for various Government, Military, Police and commercial markets.