Window on WANs

Feb 10 2011   4:47PM GMT

Where in the world should you NOT place a WAN? … Egypt for now

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

Photo credit: Duboix

Egyptian government is one cry short of a miliatry coup. Anyone listening to or watching live news right now knows that Hosni Mubarak may step down tonight from Egyptian power (if he takes 8-year-old Saudi girl JuJu’s advice). As hundreds of thousands fill Tahrir Square awaiting his speech, the country is put on hold.

How does such an event impact businesses? News reporter Jessica Scarpati spoke to Ernest Ostro, who was in Cairo the day protests started. As director of information services at Pathfinder, a global nonprofit providng reproductive health services, it was his mission to set up a branch office for his company. As timing would have it, the Egyptian government ordered Internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile carriers to shut down Web access across the country. This not only prevented protesters from posting to Facebook and Twitter, but it kept Ostro from setting up a remote office for Pathfinder’s wide area network (WAN); businesses were put on hold.

“When Egypt [got] completely cut, there [wasn’t] really any alternative for where we could reroute traffic,” Ostro said.

Ostro isn’t the only person to have world-changing events affect his business. Unfortunately for WAN managers, CEOs and chief financial officers typically favor cheap land and labor in developing countries and fail to consider how problems such as civil unrest or limited broadband availability challenge WAN connectivity. Such wide area network outages can contribute to financial bottom lines, and companies who can’t afford an outage should consider a WAN disaster recovery plan.

Before you turn to our engineer’s guide to a wide area network disaster recovery plan, companies should also consider whether the costs of creating backup links outweigh the soft and hard costs of an outage.

Organizations that don’t offer transaction services, like banks and credit card companies, will probably say “If we lose communications because of social disorder like Egypt, we’ll tell our people not to come to work anyway,'” explains CIMI Corp president Tom Nolle.

But if your businesses is already running operations in areas subject to political unrest, Ray Barber, senior executive and consultant at decision/analysis partners LLC, recommends this: If WAN managers have any choice about where a new branch is constructed, they should make sure that the new location is not in a risky spot, like a police station, where being nearby would cause your corporation to be collateral damage.

Read the three other pieces of Barber’s advice in’s article: Developing a wide area network disaster recovery plan for civil unrest.

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