Enterprise Networking: Emergency Notification Systems: 10 Factors to Consider When Buying One
Your organization may need to alert tens, hundreds or thousands of people affected by an event. Look at a notification system's track record of actual performance during real events. Examine: How many messages are sent through the network per month and year? What is the system's capacity potential across multiple notification touch points simultaneously, such as voice, SMS and email messaging? Compare the results to assess the performance capabilities that you need.
A solution provider's guarantee for network uptime is a critical consideration. Anything less than 99.99 percent may not provide the reliability you need. Reliability also needs to extend to message delivery. What's the delivery performance service-level agreement? Do they provide a guaranteed minimum throughput in a timeframe specified by the customer? Does the system capacity model allow for the ability to "burst" beyond your service level? Can the vendor delivery platform manage the capacity needed to meet your requirements?
3. Business Continuity Management Integration
In most organizations, people come and go, and staying synchronized with those changes is a difficult chore. An emergency notification system should integrate and synchronize with employee, team and call list information already created and stored in your business continuity management software. This approach not only eliminates the need to keep two data sources, but also helps ensure your organization is working from a unified continuity planning strategy.
4. Secure and Flexible Delivery Model
From employee contact information to the messages communicated during a crisis, content held within an emergency and mass notification system is likely confidential. A system must have state-of-the-art security capabilities, such as a geographically redundant infrastructure that includes data encryption and reliable network security. Look for third-party certifications, such as ISO/IEC 27001, to ensure that your vendor has an established program in place to manage information security controls.
5. Message Delivery Options
You will most likely need more than one communication path to reach all the people in your organization, particularly if you operate globally. You should ensure that your emergency and mass notification system has the capabilities to leverage a range of mass alerting device options such as sirens, loud speakers and digital display boards.
6. Communication Device Options
In addition to message delivery options, your personnel should have the ability to access important messages from a variety of personal devices such as email, smartphones, pager (one-way or two-way), mobile phone/landline, SMS and fax. Make sure you have the ability to incorporate the critical devices that your organization uses today and will have the ability to add new ones in the future as your communication preferences change.
7. Interactive Communication
Two-way communication is essential in a crisis, allowing you to communicate to your employees and they back to you. Employee responses can help you ensure their safety and make educated decisions-such as activating backup personnel plans if employees are unavailable, which can limit downtime and revenue loss by speeding time to recovery.
8. Global Capabilities
Many organizations operate internationally, and it is essential for these companies that emergency and mass notification capabilities span the globe. A notification system vendor should be able to manage carrier-to-carrier and country-to-country complexities. Considerations should include reach (countries supported), voice/text management (global delivery complexities as they relate to voice and SMS communication) and languages (ability to record messages and have recorded prompts and TTS languages). Look for a notification system provider that has the global delivery experience and expertise in managing multiple international standards and protocols.
9. Service Implementation and Training
Consider how you would like a notification solution to be implemented within your organization. Vendor-guided deployment and best-practice recommendations should be leveraged to help configure a solution that fits your needs. It is essential that the provider offer unlimited training (live or online or both), which is a critical component to ensure your personnel are prepared to use the solution effectively when needed. Having an option for vendor expert consultation available is also recommended for organizations to meet any specialized implementation or training needs.
10. Customer Support
Support from your service provider requires more than a phone number. In addition to 24/7/365 access to live technical support, your personnel should also have access to product professionals for advice or general questions. Additionally, you should consider a provider that actively promotes customer engagement by hosting and participating in events such as annual user group forums, regional user groups and technical advisory groups to provide collaborative environments for sharing ideas with fellow software users and the opportunity for the provider to refine and expand software products with customer-driven enhancements.