Smartphones and Disaster Recovery

Written by Tim Haight

I'm VP of Technology Services for CGNET. I love to travel and do IT strategic planning.

March 15, 2013

Disaster recovery - Communicating after a disasterMany of the organizations we serve are struggling with the question of whether to provide smartphones to their employees. We believe there are lots of reasons to do so, but here’s one you may not have considered completely: their usefulness for disaster recovery, or any time your network goes down.

Ideally, your network’s configuration and its Internet access connectivity are redundant. You have fail-overs if a device or an access link goes down. Also ideally, the Internet access links are truly independent, not sharing the same cables, routers, or points of presence on the other end. Often, however, this is not completely so.

So, if you are among those without truly independent redundant connectivity, you might consider something that happened to a client we were visiting last year. On the last day that the organization had to file information with the IRS, the Internet connection went down. It was something in the local loop outside the office, and the carrier was in no particular hurry to fix it. Repairs eventually took a couple of days! Fortunately, the director of finance had a laptop with a wireless (in the cellular sense) modem. She transferred the IRS forms from her desktop to the laptop with a flash drive and sent the files from her laptop on time.

Cellular modems for laptops are available, but they’re not as common as smart phones. Not only do smart phones allow email to keep flowing during most outages (only really big ones will take out your network and the cellular connection), but many now also function as wi-fi Internet access points on their cellular network.

My iPhone 4S does this, for example. It’s really easy to use. You turn on a button in settings. The password is displayed, so you can get to it using your computer’s wi-fi logon easily. The feature adds about $20 a month extra to my data plan. With the hotspot, your office computer can be back on the Internet in a minute.  A smartphone can be a lightweight but important part of disaster recovery.

So if you’re interested in an emergency backup channel, you might want to add the hotspot feature to several phones in the office. This is not meant as a substitute for redundancy in the network, but there are those times it might come in handy.

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