Dont Depend on Service-Level Agreements

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-01-31 Print this article Print


But don't bother to ask the power company for dependable information, since they'll promise you near-perfect uptime. Instead, look at the historical record by reading news reports and talking to customers that have used them longer than you have. See how often power is lost, and how long restoration usually takes. 

Then, when you plan your emergency generating capacity, make sure it's double what you think you need and that you have enough fuel to last at least twice as long as what you find the average restoration time to be. Yes, you'll have to buy a bigger generator, but your company will grow over time, so you'll need that anyway. 

You cannot depend on any single individual to be a critical part of your emergency response plan. You must be able to respond with whoever is available, which means you must do enough cross training and create documentation that will allow those people to keep your systems running, at least for a while. You probably need to draw this responsibility matrix so that you can see who is responsible for what tasks, what their level of training is, and who their backups are. And did I mention that those backups need backups? 

Communications problems during an emergency will likely drive you nuts, but you have to do the best you can. Assume that you won't have reliable cell service and that even if cell service remains in place, it may not be available to you. Assume that your landline phones will be out. Assume that your broadband connection will be out.  

It may be that the only way you can keep running is to contract with a company that will provide a replacement operations capability on short notice. Or you may be able to find a second broadband provider that is totally separate from the other in terms of all facilities and all media. You should also consider buying satellite phones for key employees, and then training them on how to use them, so that you can set up a plan for contacting those employees. Remember that those satellite phones don't work inside a building, despite what you see on television, so both parties have to plan to be in a spot where they can access the satellite.

Finally, don't take the word of your providers that they will have you up and running right away because you have a service-level agreement. You might get a refund if the SLA isn't met, but their promises to restore service are meaningless. In other words, trust only what you have direct control over. Have a backup for everything else. 


Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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