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AT&T's Smarter Utility Solutions Crucial to Business Continuity in the Event of a Disaster

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June 16, 2011

AT&T's Smarter Utility Solutions Crucial to Business Continuity in the Event of a Disaster

By Tammy Wolf, TMCnet Web Editor

When it comes to business continuity, it is essential to take a proactive approach to ensure that business is sustainable during a period of disruption caused by a disaster or emergency. AT&T (News - Alert) offers a portfolio of smarter utility solutions designed to help mobilize governments and businesses in the event of a scenario that could significantly impact an organization’s physical assets, structure and/or people.

AT&T’s Business Continuity services encompass disaster planning, risk management, recovery preparedness and communications readiness in order to provide customers with storage solutions, high-availability network solutions, business-impact analysis, risk assessments, enterprise hosting, cloud computing and application services. A proven responsive and reliable network provider, AT&T has therefore enlisted several voice-centric solutions and other emergency preparedness offerings to quickly reconnect customers and organizations if disaster strikes.

Most recently, AT&T unveiled its Remote Mobility Zone to provide mobile voice and data services in the absence of wireless coverage. Aptly referred to as a “cell tower in a suitcase” by some, the Remote Mobility Zone enables organizations to set up their own cell sites in less than 30 minutes in the event of a disaster. Several options include a “Fly-away” solution, which offers first responders like police officers and firefighters connectivity up to one half of a mile in any direction from the suitcase site; “Park and Use,” which deploys small cell sites into vehicles to drive to and activate service at locations without wireless service; and fixed site deployment to establish a mounted cell site as a backup communications system.

Under its Continuity of Operations Planning and Network Disaster Recovery programs, AT&T provides business continuity and recovery capabilities to its global network of wireless networks and external clients. The Network Disaster Recovery program was initially activated following the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks, in which the program team established a recovery location in northern New Jersey through Oct. 24 of that year. Since then, AT&T has been committed to recovering voice and data service network elements to an area in the event of a disaster.

Using automated tools and patented mobile disaster recovery equipment, members of the specially-trained response team help route telecommunications traffic, grant affected area communications access to the rest of the world, and restore communications services to a normal condition in a timely manner. Using self-contained mobile cell sites called Cells on Wheels (COWs) and Cells on Light Trucks (COLTs), AT&T can replace the service of a failed permanent site, enhance the cellular capacity of an affected area, and create communications when terrestrial connections to the AT&T network are down.

AT&T’s COOP plan involves several forms of communications services to assist organizations and personnel in maintaining operations during an emergency. A Wireless Priority Service grants priority access to key government and first responder personnel once they enter a unique code to connect to a wireless network. In addition to a host of network and backup services, AT&T also enables devices like BlackBerry (News - Alert) handhelds to send out messages to special categories of workers, regardless of the device they are using.

A more common mechanism used to gain connection when a cellular wireless service is unavailable, AT&T’s Satellite Augmented Mobile service integrates with compatible TerreStar (News - Alert) GENUS devices for primary communications and to gain access to a satellite network for voice, messaging and data service during downtime. Designed primarily for utilities, transportation, public safety agencies, first responders, and government, this flexible solution allows customers to use a single device for access to both cellular and satellite networks. The device itself includes all the perks of a smartphone, including a touchscreen, WiFi (News - Alert), Bluetooth and GPS, and runs on the Windows Mobile operating system.

Back in July 2010, AT&T released a detailed document entitled “Business Continuity Preparedness Handbook” that revealed the steps to taking a proactive approach to business continuity planning for ensuring an organization’s survival during a disaster with little impact to its employees, customers and stakeholders. While the handbook is sure to provide readers with a plan of action for any future emergencies and disasters, AT&T continues to enhance its ability to deliver up-to-date and revolutionary smarter utility solutions to consumers and organizations. 

Tammy Wolf is a TMCnet web editor. She covers a wide range of topics, including IP communications and information technology. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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