Are Caribbean Networks Disaster-Ready?

CaribNOG Regional Meeting Tackles State of Regional Systems

CASTRIES, St. Lucia – Just as with your home and personal property, the best defense for protecting your business is preparedness and having a disaster recovery plan in place to ensure your business remains operational in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.

Many of us make preparations for our families and our homes in case of emergencies, but are the same preparations being made for Caribbean businesses?

This was one of several questions arising at a recent regional gathering of computer systems managers and network administrators from across the Caribbean.

The Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) held its 2nd regional gathering in Castries, St Lucia, where the topic of designing disaster-ready systems was discussed.

CaribNOG Program Director Bevil Wooding led a discussion on disaster planning approaches for information managers and network administrators. He highlighted the need for effective disaster recovery plans, which include the involvement of management, technical staff and technology suppliers.

“Data is the life-blood of any organisation, of any size. As we move more data to computer and Internet-based systems, we must pay greater attention to how that data is protected against serious threats, which can range from hacking to hurricanes,” Wooding said.

He added, “Disaster-readiness incorporates preparations for not only those major calamities such as severe weather or earthquakes, but also for common occurrences caused by incidents such power outages or equipment failure, which can wreak havoc if protective measures aren’t in place.”

Richard Wall, president of US-based technology firm ArkiTechs, provided practical policy guidelines that Caribbean business could adopt in preparing a disaster recovery plan. Wall stressed on the need for organizations to be creative and pragmatic when planning for disasters.

“Business managers and their technical teams have to recognize that the number and severity of threats against computer systems is increasing.

At the same time businesses, governments and other organizations have a growing dependence on computer based systems to provide critical services,” Wall said.

He added, “Greater attention must therefore be placed on putting processes, policies and procedures in place for recovery or continuation of technology infrastructure critical to an organization after a natural or human-induced disaster.”

In the Caribbean region, many organizations are without a formal structured plan to protect and recover their information management systems from disaster. Micro and small businesses are particularly vulnerable and few possess the in-house capacity to develop necessary plans.

Wooding stated, “Given the significance of small and medium enterprises to Caribbean economies, we felt that CaribNOG needed to go beyond the theory of disaster preparedness. We presented participants with practical tools, checklists and that they can now take into their organizations.

We trust that these resources will help information system managers strengthen the resilience of Caribbean organizations.”

Jamaican Steve Spence, CEO of Spence and Blair
Consulting, provided a practical list of equipment, software and procedures to safeguard systems and back-up data. He also shared perspectives on how the application of the right technology could make implementing a disaster recovery plan much easier, simply by automating tasks normally done by IT staff.

“Technology can be used to create new options when dealing with incidents that impact the normal operations of your business,” Spence said.

CaribNOG is a growing community of technology practitioners dedicated to exchanging technical information and experiences related to the management of computer networks and information management systems in the Caribbean region.

The CaribNOG gathering, which targeted regional technology professionals and enthusiasts and provided fertile ground for high-tech discussions and hands on training. Regional and international experts tackled topics such as protecting regional networks from computer hacker attacks and designing disaster-ready systems. Sessions were also dedicated to discussing the economic considerations for establishing Caribbean Internet Exchange Points and building out voice-over-IP (VoIP) networks.

Over 100 technology practitioners from more than 10 Caribbean countries gathered for the event, which was held in collaboration with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union’s Caribbean ICT Roadshow and with the support of the Government of St Lucia.

The four-day CaribNOG event drew over 100 technology practitioners from across the Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.

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