The Importance of Email in Business Continuity

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No one doubts the importance of the humble email in business today.  In terms of the resources allocated for business continuity though, the email server does not necessarily command sufficient resources to ensure its continual operation, which is due in part to an under appreciation of it can offer.

The email can play a pivotal role in the face of disaster however, and businesses should allocate sufficient resources to ensure it keeps running.  For today, I want to highlight some roles that the email is perfectly capable of fulfilling in order to underscore why it makes sense to invest in technologies and failovers to ensure that email services continue humming along.

For reassurance and communication of detailed instructions

Text messages or a quick phone call from the departmental head or team leader are extremely useful to disseminate information quickly and efficiently.  Say for example, instructions to stay home due to an overnight fire in the office; or to inform employees that they can work from home for the day due to inclement weather.  However, not only are the above media impractical for communicating lengthier instructions, they are also a poor choice in certain situations due to tendencies for nuances to be lost along the communication chain.

In the event of an office fire, for example, emailed assurances can be sent to employers in tandem with updated information on the scope of damage, or instructions to report for work at a different office location the next day.  The fact is that people tend to be more reassured and waste less time on unproductive speculation if they are not left in the dark; this is especially true when the situation is one that is fluid.  Essentially, the email in this instance can be harnessed as a clear channel of communication – one which is not subject to distortion, bias, or the inadvertent omission – from the upper-most echelons of management to the rest of the organization.

As an avenue of communication with customers and business partners

Put it this way: I think there is nothing more worrying than sending an email to an organization and having it bounce back due to its inability to reach the server.  The heavy use of email in business today means that it has become an integral part of business processes for many companies.  As such, email messages are an important avenue to maintain communication with customers and business partners alike.  The ability to access email also makes it possible to issue assurances even as CRM and ERP systems are gradually brought online.

Of course, an advanced PBX that can be remotely configured to route incoming phone calls to cell phones is desirable too.  It should be noted though, that these systems generally entail a certain amount of capital outlay to set up in the first place.

Allowing employees to work from home

The ability to access email remotely could well allow many employees to work directly from home, an especially pertinent for businesses based in regions prone to adverse weather.  While some workers might be limited by their inability to access certain services on the intranet, this is still a better situation than for work to grind to a complete halt.  As you can imagine, this is also an excellent reason for businesses to configure their systems so that employees can access their work emails from home machines.  This can generally be easily achieved with Exchange Server by enabling Outlook Web Access (OWA).  Moreover, access can also be opened up to tablet and smartphone devices via the use of Exchange ActiveSync (EAS).

Keeping the Email Server running

One way to keep email servers running is to deploy fail-over hardware that makes uses of redundant hardware or employs the use of a high-availability configuration.  Unfortunately, recent disasters and events in the past decade have taught us that it is entirely possible for natural disasters or local incidents to happen that can demolish a building, much less a single server.  As it is, any comprehensive solution will necessarily entail server deployments in more than one geographical location.

On this front, companies that deploy an on-premise email server can ensure that incoming emails do not bounce by configuring the company’s backup MX record to a backup server.  Assuming that all end-point clients are configured by fully-qualified domain names, administrators can then redirect users to the backup email machine by updating the relevant DNS entries.

Written by Paul Mah

2 Comments

  1. Tony Wescott · April 10, 2011

    I remember when the internet was really gaining traction that there was talk of introducing postage costs on e-mail being sent.

    We certainly take it for granted, but it has absolutely changed the world around us. The thing that I think about is how quickly things tend to screech to a halt in the office if the Exchange server goes down. Any company with a lot of moving legs just can’t function properly without appropriate communication infrastructure.

  2. Ned Foreman · April 17, 2011

    For me email + fax is a great combination in business continuity. The two should work together. Email alone will not sustain the growth of the business.

    THE REASON:
    If you have a business, it is not advisable to send business papers such as contracts through email. You’ll comprise your company’s security if you do this.

    The most efficient alternative to this problem is fax server.

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