Stranded Off the Information Highway

What would you do if your organization's most critical e-business vendor suddenly, and without warning, ceased operations?

What would you do if your organizations most critical e-business vendor suddenly, and without warning, ceased operations, rendering your entire Internet presence, including Web access, security, e-mail and FTP capabilities, completely useless? Thats exactly the situation that challenged my company a few weeks ago. If you think this is just a simple case of calling another ISP (Internet service provider) and getting reconnected again, you may be naive. Provisioning a new ISP is time-consuming and detailed.

Despite the vendors initial public offering a few years ago, I began to see turnover in its management staff, combined with a serious drop in service performance over the last 18 months. This prompted me to search for a new relationship with a more reliable and established global ISP vendor, which I completed only a few months ago. Although I had planned a seamless crossover between vendors, I never expected our current vendor to suddenly stop conducting business, including terminating all its staff within a few business days.

Provisioning a new ISP is more involved than many organizations realize. In our case, it has required several weeks worth of effort to redirect ownership of primary domain names, reregister contact points, acquire new routers and communication equipment, and deal with the various telcos that either own or operate the connections to and from the new ISP. In the latter case, my organization had to deal with two local-loop providers, the long-distance provider and the ISPs providers.

It was an eye-opener to learn that many of the telcos have the wrong information or no information about a particular account. Tugs of war regarding ownership and right of way for establishing communication lines can also ensue.

Bottom line: Disaster recovery has a new meaning if you rely on outside vendors to handle a critical component of your e-business. Make sure that your most important vendors are competent and financially solvent. Also, creating and documenting a complete checklist of Internet access responsibilities by all parties involved is mandatory. Furthermore, most organizations should consider a contingency plan in the event of a total ISP shutdown. It could happen sooner than you realize.