Video conferencing essential to disaster recovery communications

Video conferencing and telepresence have become essential parts of a disaster recovery communications plan for both government agencies and enterprises.

Connectivity, business continuity and safety are crucial in overcoming any disaster situation. More and more, enterprises and government agencies are realizing that video conferencing and telepresence are becoming essential elements to any disaster recovery communications plan.

Unlike voice, text and instant messaging, video conferencing tools offer disaster responders the ability to visualize a situation and connect with individuals or groups who are separated by distance, said Ira Weinstein, partner and senior analyst at Wainhouse Research. At any disaster recovery site -- whether a natural disaster or a war zone -- video collaboration is typically in use today.

“Video collaboration is about immediate access to global resources for disaster recovery,” Weinstein said.

While governments have integrated video into their disaster response communications plans, enterprises are also relying on it for business continuity, he said.

“An [enterprise] or government can only put so many experts in the same place," Weinstein said. "video collaboration tools for UC can overcome travel delays, time zone differences and can keep the cadence in conducting business.”

Video collaboration vendor Polycom Inc. will showcase its RealPresence video collaboration product at the AFCEA TechNet 2012 conference in Tokyo this week. Polycom plans to demonstrate to the military and defense community how its telepresence product can be used to ensure business continuity and situational awareness during a disaster situation.

“RealPresence can be used by a military commander on the field, on a train, or wherever their office may be for the moment to communicate with the staff back in Washington, D.C.,” said Russ Colbert, U.S. federal government market director for Polycom.

Beyond the military, different sectors are seeing the value of video collaboration tools in disaster recovery communications, Colbert said.

“Whether it's hospitality, health care, manufacturing or any specialty contained within the enterprise, the same holds true for both the government and enterprise -- video conferencing and communications are bridging all locations and situations together,” he said.

Disaster recovery communications: Showing versus telling with video

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Video conferencing aids emergency response

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Phones have always provided instant disaster recovery communications, but in the government sector, video collaboration has enabled officials to visualize the surroundings of a soldier on the front line or assess the damage from a natural disaster. Where words fail, video can show.

A disaster can knock out landlines and cellular phone networks, but with a good disaster recovery communications plan, an organization can deploy video collaboration tools that run over the Internet or a satellite connection.

“Now, we can have HD-quality video conferences in an area that may not have towers or even running water,” Weinstein said.

Cisco Systems’ customers have deployed its TelePresence system in a number of disaster situations, including Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the 2010 earthquakes in Haiti and Shenzhen, China, and the Japanese nuclear disaster last year.

“We have had Cisco TelePresence up and running immediately to connect local governments to relief agencies, and the product has allowed doctors to examine and treat patients immediately,” said David Hsieh, vice president of TelePresence and emerging technologies at Cisco.

Medical attention in the field is an important use case for video collaboration for disaster recovery communications, said Steve Campbell, president and founder of telepresence and video conferencing consultancy Stephen K Campbell Inc.

“On a battleground or a situation where roads may be blocked, or even in the back of an ambulance with an EMT under normal circumstances, a doctor who is not on the scene still can have the ability to examine the patient and help the first responder,” Campbell said.

Disaster recovery communications: Video for enterprise business continuity

Beyond government agencies and humanitarian missions, video communications can also help with enterprise business continuity, Weinstein said. If an enterprise’s employees are cut off from their office, meetings can still take place.

Campbell learned this first hand recently when the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption in Iceland prevented him from traveling to Europe. Video allowed him to keep his meetings .

“It’s almost impossible to predict when a disaster will occur,” Campbell said. “The benefit of video is there is an alternative to physical travel.”

While the reasons for video collaboration vary, the outcome remains the same, Campbell noted. Whether there are road closures, weather events or other reasons that prevent an employee from attending work or a meeting, video collaboration can offer a tremendous amount of flexibility for a worker who must telecommute.

“The difference with video, however, is the interaction becomes more of a face-to-face meeting where the participants are more engaged, instead of simply calling into an audio bridge like years before,” Campbell said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer

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