Gearing IT for the rains

Going by past experiences, there is one thing that CIOs can be certain of: a disaster today packs a lot more punch than it did earlier. Torrential rains can be more of a nuisance than a disaster, but it definitely is something that CIOs need to be well prepared for. With less than a month before the monsoons hit the Indian shores, now is the best time to prepare your infrastructure, relook your processes and educate your employees.

Rain Proofing IT Infrastructure

CIOs do not have the luxury to log off, shut down and unplug at the first warning signs of a storm. According to Krishnendu De, Principal Consultant – IT Infrastructure and PPM, Consulting, PwCIndia, taking care of the little things can make a big difference. “This is the right time to do a thorough preventive maintenance of utility infrastructure such as the power points distribution box (DB), UPS, UPS batteries, diesel generators (DG), and DG batteries among others. It is also important to check the coolant and rain water pipes along with the fire detection and prevention systems in the data center. Ensuring that adequate fuel is stocked to run the DC without power for 72 hours will also help,” he adds.

Disaster recovery plans need to be in place for any organization and one of the best ways to ensure that the organization is prepared for a disaster is by having regular drills and ensuring that the IT infrastructure and people are geared to face any eventuality. According to Sunil Mehta, Sr. VP & Area Systems Director (Central Asia), JWT, the monsoons are a good way to put those capabilities to test. Since network overload causing frequent call drops, connectivity issues and bad or no signal are very common during torrential rain, JWT resorted to working with multiple vendors for its voice, data and other communication requirements. “This ensures that even if one service provider goes down, we are still able to carry out operations,” says Mehta.

Taking a Closer Look at Processes

An effective communication strategy is an important factor to enhance your level of preparedness. According to Mehta, since organizations already have their employee’s mobile numbers, text messaging can be an effective communication channel, at a time when communication systems are already overloaded. “Setting up call trees and having key personnel in a state of preparedness to keep their team updated can also be helpful,” he says.

Subscribing to weather alerts and keeping the employees updated on a regular basis can also be effective in helping the employees get accustomed to receiving communication and updates, thus providing organizations with the virtual edge.

Virtual or remote operational plans can be the knight in shining armor when it matters most. Remote access, online collaboration and remote support are critical for keeping workers productive when inclement weather strikes. This is another area where prior planning helps. According to Satish Kotian, CIO, DHFL, “Since the decision to allow employees to work from home or on flexible shifts is driven by the management, it is important for CIOs to be prepared for such requests at the last minute since such capabilities cannot be built overnight.

Readying People

While most CIOs have a strategy in place for technology and process management, one of the most overlooked resources is people. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, while talking about the company’s commitment to remain inNew Orleansand regain operations, Frank Glaviano, VP for Shell (one ofNew Orleans’s largest employers) stated that “You can’t fix the business until you fix the people.”

In the face of uncertainty, telecommuting and flexible timings are no longer perks but necessities. Says Mehta, “Since our organization is communication centric, we have moved our communication systems to the cloud. We have ensured that our key employees are equipped with data cards and other wireless devices which will help them to reach out to their clients and teams, even if they are not able to commute.”

One can never be too sure about the success of these strategies, unless they are tested. According to De, it is imperative that employees test their remote access infrastructure by accessing all applications and devices. “This should be done well before the monsoon and the best way to do it is to have the employees work from home for a day. Apart from the corporate data card, employees should also test their home broadband or personal internet connection to overcome disruptions with the corporate service provider,” he adds.

The monsoon does not need to be a cause of worry for disrupted work. A little planning can make your life simpler when the heavens open up. Like they say, make hay when the sun shines. The sun is shining now, and it’s time to gear up for the clouds.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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