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Digger Cuts Communications

A third party contractor working on the Olympics Village dug through fibre optic and copper cables over the weekend, taking out broad-band and PSTN for the East End of London and beyond…..causing problems that are still on-going.

The BT cables were severed on Saturday (4th April 2009) and even by 8th April were still causing problems. BT did report that by 10am on 7th April, ‘98% of PSTN users and many others including emergency services, hospitals and critical business users’ were reconnected. However, even by 8th April, there were some users who are still without the service.

Amongst others, the outage impacted Vodafone services in Kent, Hertfordshire and Greater London, Jobserve, and even the Transport for London traffic light management system.

This incident demonstrates the difficulties that businesses face when trying to ensure that they have resilient systems in place, and alternate back-up methods where relevant. Even where more than one supplier has been chosen, and there is apparent duplication in the system, it may be that the suppliers are each reliant on the same exchange or cables, as may have occurred in this instance. For smaller businesses, it may simply not be cost-effective to have additional resilience and duplication in place. In this case, it is essential that simple communications mechanisms and manual workarounds are identified and implemented so that communications can be maintained with key customers and stakeholders.

What should you do?

The identification of key suppliers can be achieved through a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) , and businesses should then take steps to ensure that these suppliers do have business continuity arrangements in place, and that the tendering/contract process for future critical suppliers also covers business continuity issues.

Planning, and subsequently training and exercising will ensure that any manual workarounds are effective, and will help improve staff confidence in implementing these procedures.