More resources are available in TechSoup’s Disaster Planning and Recovery Toolkit. Throughout this book, you’ll see links to additional resources at TechSoup.org and elsewhere on the Internet, formatted like this:
Disaster Planning and Recovery Toolkit
We encourage reader collaboration using the tsdp (TechSoup Disaster Planning) tag in social bookmarking site Delicious. In each chapter of this book, we provide a link to a set of tsdp-tagged bookmarks. For example, in the chapter on backup you’ll find the following link:
For easy reference, all of the additional resources we reference in this book are also tagged in Delicious. If you find additional resources that you think would be useful for others, you can add them by tagging them tsdp (along with any other pertinent tags) in Delicious. This is the first time we’ve tried to facilitate collaboration in this way, and we’re excited to see what resources readers will bring to the community.
Part I: Preparing for Any Predicament
Disaster preparedness isn’t just about being ready for a fire or earthquake; it’s a nimble, flexible approach to your organization’s day-to-day programs and operations. A natural disaster may never hit your office, but by adopting certain technologies and strategies, you can deepen your nonprofit’s impact and make your work faster and more efficient.
In this section, we’ll discuss simple strategies to prepare your nonprofit or public library for new challenges and opportunities. First, we’ll talk about communications strategies that work just as well outside your office as inside. Next, we’ll help you document essential processes to reduce downtime during an emergency. Later, we’ll discuss backup strategies to protect your data from computer damage. Finally, we’ll talk about ways to protect your systems from man-made disasters, malicious and otherwise.
Chapter 1: Your Office Is Everywhere
As we said in the introduction to this book, disaster planning isn’t just about being ready when a fire or flood damages your computers. It’s a way of thinking about your nonprofit’s day-to-day operations just as much in times of health as in times of crisis. An organization that’s ready for a disaster is an organization unbounded by technological limitations, an organization whose office is everywhere.
Disasters Happen Everywhere Many of the organizations we surveyed1 had had their work disrupted by wildfires, earthquakes, and hurricanes, but those weren’t the only disasters reported. There were a few stories of sabotage from former employees, one organization whose office was destroyed by an angry mob, and even one organization that had a vandal walk in during office hours and smash a computer. Nearly all of the disasters reported resulted in damaged computers, lost data, or both.
The point is that disasters happen everywhere, and there’s no way to prevent every possibility; instead, focus on operating your organization in such a way that it can resume operations swiftly.
Unified Communications (UC) refers to a large family of technologies and organizational practices that simplify and integrate multiple forms of communications like phone conversations, email, video and web conferencing, instant messaging (IM), voicemail, fax, and SMS messages.
The central idea behind UC is that if an employee can access and reply to a message using whatever device is convenient at the moment (regardless of what sort of device the message was generated on), there will be less lag time between replies and the organization will be able to communicate more effectively internally and externally. In a disaster scenario, it’s essential that fast communication not require employees’ physical presence in the office.
Evaluating Your Organization’s Needs
Remember that UC refers not only to certain technologies, but also to business practices that encourage a smooth flow of communications among several media; thus, before selecting a UC strategy, it's a good idea to take an inventory of how your organization currently communicates both internally and externally. Do employees communicate with each other more by phone or by email? Do employees use personal phones and email addresses for work? Do volunteers and other people outside of the staff use office telephones and email? After you implement a UC solution, whose job will it be to maintain it? In a disaster situation, what steps would be necessary to reestablish communication?
Most importantly, remember that staff adoption of UC is just as important as choosing the best technical approach. Train your staff to use new communications solutions and make sure they have time to learn and ask questions.
Selecting and Implementing a Unified Communications Strategy
Hosted VoIP Services
Adopting a hosted Voice over IP service can deepen your organization’s ability to communicate during a disaster. A hosted VoIP service in the office is functionally similar to POTS (plain old telephone service) lines, but it doesn’t require that all employees work in a single, physical office. During a disaster, an employee can bring VoIP equipment home and use it with her home Internet connections, or have the VoIP service forward her calls to a mobile phone.
There are numerous VoIP services on the market. Two services with a strong focus on unified communications are Vonage and 8x8, Inc. An organization can sign up with either service for a monthly fee of approximately 40 to 50 dollars a month for each phone line.
8x8 uses a special, Internet-connected phone, while Vonage provides an Internet router with a standard telephone jack. Both services can deliver voicemail messages by email. Both also allow users to receive calls out of the office by ringing one or more phone numbers at the same time as the office phone. 8x8 also allows users to place calls from a mobile phone, which is especially useful for organizations that need to place a lot of international calls. For an additional fee, Vonage offers a voice-recognition service that can transcribe voicemail messages and send them to users by email or SMS.
BetterWorld Telecom provides VoIP and other telecommunications services exclusively to nonprofits and sustainability-focused businesses. BetterWorld offers a free audit, in which a representative can examine your current telecommunications setup and recommend a suite of services to improve your UC capabilities and reduce your cost and environmental footprint.
Unlike 8x8 and Vonage, BetterWorld offers a private branch exchange (PBX) service independently of its VoIP service; in other words, BetterWorld can enhance the UC capacity of your current public switched telephone network (PSTN) system even if you don't want to switch to VoIP. Look at BetterWorld's Solutions page for an overview of the telecommunications services they offer. BetterWorld holds a strong commitment to environmental and social justice issues.
An obvious advantage of hosted VoIP services is their simple, fast installation. If a disaster requires staff members to work from home, they can easily use VoIP routers or phones with their own Internet connections. Generally, VoIP providers let businesses set up their group phones at multiple locations and even move them from place to place for travel or field work.
http://www.betterworldtelecom.com/ Vonage Features
http://www.vonage.com/features.php 8x8 Business VoIP features
Voicemail-to-Email Online Services
Depending on your workflow and the size of your organization, a voicemail-to-email service could greatly help you in a time of disaster. Such a service would let you receive voicemail messages quickly from anywhere with an Internet connection. If phone communication becomes unavailable, you’ll still be able to receive and respond to urgent communications.
In the past few years, numerous free or inexpensive voicemail-to-email services have gained popularity. These services serve as virtual voicemail boxes for one or more phone lines, generally allowing the user to access messages either by phone, online, or by email attachment. If you need to give a message to a colleague, you can forward it as an email from the online user interface or simply forward the email message. Popular services include Google Voice (formerly Grand Central), YouMail, and RingCentral. Many of these services also let you have a single telephone number that will forward to multiple numbers at once.