Wednesday, December 24, 2008

ERM-BC-COOP: Just the fax, m'am

Despite admonishments to Call Miss Utility (or similar), some turkey managed to cut through a fibre cable bundle that was the communications lifeline to The World.

Back when we were looking at risks and ways to avoid or mitigate them, the communications folks told me that if landline phone service "went away" we would be OK since most personnel had company or personal cell phones.

Internet, for email, is segregated from the telco lines.

What we - and despite my telecom background, I have to share the blame - failed to consider was facsimile communication.

In this day-and-age of email with PDF attachments, how many people actually use faxes?

Turns out, a lot of us.

The company was able to work-around the fibre faux pas by reverting to copper that came in to the facility on a different path (than the fibre).

But the copper provided significantly fewer trunks than the fibre.

Which meant that unless the timing was just right, a person trying to send a fax might end up unable to make a connection.

(I suppose I could, given the proper cables, connect a computer to a cell phone and send a fax via the mobile device, but I don't have the proper cables and, frankly, no one ever considered that before the cord was cut. Something to investigate.)

For the very large organization, there are work-arounds.

If a correspondent absolutely positively MUST have a fax - a PDF attachment to an email won't do for whatever reason - we could send an email, with a word processor or PDF attachment, to another company site and ask someone to fax the information from that site.

But what about a Mom-n-Pop?

Print out the fax copy and run down to the local Faxes 'R' Us ? Who minds the store while the fax is being transmitted ?

Still, that's only half of the equation.

What about incoming faxes?

The sender has your fax number which probably is NOT the mobile device number.

There is no way, until the telco line is restored, that the fax can be received. ('Course until the line is restored there will be no incoming calls to that landline number - it pays to advertise the mobile number!)

Hopefully, anyone trying to send a fax to you will get a Ring/No Answer (RNA) or busy returned and, at least in most cases, will receive a report stating that the fax could not be transmitted.

A large organization can fairly easily put several work-around options in place, including redirecting calls -including faxes - to another number.

But the Mom-n-Pop . . .

It's very true that we are becoming less and less dependent on landline communications and email attachments that facsimile communications are "out of sight and out of mind."

Until, of course, you absolutely positively need to send (or receive) a fax.

Now is the time to consider a work-around - for both the Big Organization and the Mom-n-Pop.

John Glenn, MBCI
Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity
JohnGlennMBCI @

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