Cell Phone Networks Get Disaster Prep

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene this past weekend, cell phone service took a big hit. In some areas, there are outages, while in others, there is service, but the bandwidth is being used by emergency personnel who get priority in a situation like this. But as we look at the state of cell phone service, it’s held up remarkably well and that’s because the cell networks know how to prepare for a disaster.

And you could learn from them, Grasshopper, just by paying attention to how they do business.

As we wrote the other day in Mobile News Sites Stay Up During Hurrican Irene, PCMag.com reported this week on how the cell phone companies prepared ahead of the disaster. PCMag wrote:
On Friday, all four of the major carriers said they had made preparations for Irene, like moving more fuel to power backup batteries.
But the cell phone network providers did more than add fuel to back up batteries, they dispatched mobile cell tower technology to areas where cell towers where damaged or destroyed. Writing in eWeek, technology writer Wayne Rash described the cell phone company strategy:

Now wireless companies are busily engaged in restoring service where necessary, and keeping existing cell sites running. AT&T was hard hit in its eastern North Carolina locations, and has already dispatched cells on wheels (COWs) and cells on light trucks (COLTs) to provide service. Here’s a video of the AT&T team dispatching the trucks to keep things running in the wake of Irene.

The cell phone companies are a good role model for any network administrator. Instead of simply reacting to every crisis that comes down the pike, you can prepare to the extent possible as they have. You can have contingency plans in place to help you mitigate the inevitable outages that take down your mission critical applications from time to time.

Can you offload to another server and keep going? If there is a power disruption in your data center, do you have backups in other geographic locations?

It won’t always be practical for every organization to take these steps, but if your application or web site is absolutely critical to your business, it might be worth exploring these options before the crisis hits.

There is no stopping mother nature and power outages happen for a variety of reasons. Your battery backup can only take you so far and if the outage is for an extended period of time as it has been in parts of the Northeast this week, or even worse, you can’t get to your building because roads are closed, having some way to deal with the problem offsite from another location removed from the problem could pay huge dividends.

Like any insurance, these types of backup plans tend to be expensive, but when you need them, you’ll be glad you planned ahead before the disaster struck.

Just like the cell phone companies did during Irene.

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