Amidst frequent load shedding and often unpredictable stages of power outages, understandably many businesses are concerned about the possibilities of a total blackout.
Since the beginning of the year, businesses have been warned to ensure that they have contingency plans in place, and insurance companies consider the risk real enough to exclude grid failure from their clients’ insurance policy coverage.
As a result, the question of what network redundancies are in place should the grid have a widespread failure has emerged as a primary concern for many businesses.
If the recent pandemic has taught us anything, it is the importance of having well-established contingency plans for the worst-case scenario, rather than scrambling when a crisis strikes.
Being prepared for the worst
With careful planning, it is possible to build in network redundancies that would keep networks connected in the aftermath of a total blackout. For example, when considering data centres or data centres of network partners, a decision should be informed by the resilience and reliability of the data centre.
Further, the foundation of redundant data centres should be based on multiple back-ups to the redundant systems around power, and multiple back-ups to the Uninterruptable Power Systems (UPS’s), cooling, sustainable security, and environmental monitoring on resilient Building Management Systems (BMS).
Power protection can be achieved through a range of techniques including Static Switch protection at multiple, redundant Power Distribution Units (PDUs), on-line UPS support systems, 48V DC power systems and generators.
A UPS battery autonomy can be used to bridge the time between the utility loss and automatic backup generator start. The times are designed so that single failures would not result in a loss of power. This provides engineers with sufficient time to react in case of single problems.
Other power considerations include having a minimum number of N+1 generators which have fuel reserves for at least 24 hours and in addition, fuel re-fill contracts should be in place.
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that include the delivery of lower operational risk, increased redundancy in design, increased security, and greater resilience should also be considered.
Of course, should a complete grid failure plunge the country into a total blackout, as with any national failure of that magnitude, there will be uncertainties that cannot be answered ahead of time.
For example, the location, extent, and duration of any potential unplanned power outages will likely be unclear until power networks and the relevant authorities disclose their plan to restore the grid publicly.
These factors would be outside of any organisations’ control and would affect the level of customer impact and network availability.
However, that does not mean that contingency plans are for naught. Having robust plans in place would help maintain the core of fixed and global networks in the event of planned or un-planned power outages, and at the very least help minimise disruption to businesses.
Flexibility and adaptability
As organisations look to their own business resilience measures, it is important to bear in mind that a business continuity strategy is not cast in stone. Rather, it must be an evolving plan that reflects the changing needs of the organisation and the environment in which it operates. This must involve assessing its current resilience against recognised industry best practice and relevant standards, while at the same time analysing where business continuity measures are successful and where improvements are needed.
By continually re-evaluating the plan and its associated technologies and processes, an organisation can more easily adapt to change.
It is this agility that will be critical in the business environment of the future, and whether the next black swan event comes from a global pandemic, national grid shutdown, climate related event or something we cannot predict.
While we cannot guarantee that the country won’t be faced with the unthinkable of a full blackout in the future, organisations can and should start strengthening their resiliency and business continuity now.
1 N+1: The ‘N’ stands for the minimum number of independent modules required for a system to operate. The “1” in this equation refers to the number of additional components that act as an independent backup that allows the system to operate as intended if one of the modules within ‘N’ fails.
About BT Group
BT Group is the UK’s leading provider of fixed and mobile telecommunications and related secure digital products, solutions and services. We also provide managed telecommunications, security and network and IT infrastructure services to customers across 180 countries.
BT Group consists of three customer-facing units: Consumer serves individuals and families in the UK; Business* covers companies and public services in the UK and internationally; Openreach is an independently governed, wholly owned subsidiary wholesaling fixed access infrastructure services to its customers – over 650 communications providers across the UK.
British Telecommunications plc is a wholly owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
For more information, visit www.bt.com/about
*Business was formed on 1 January 2023 from the combination of the former Enterprise and Global units. It commenced reporting as a single unit from 1 April 2023, with pro forma reporting information to be produced ahead of BT Group’s Q1 FY24 results.
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Duncan Van Jaarsveld, Client Partner for Anglo American, BT
Since 2009, WhichVoIP.co.za has helped thousands of South African businesses to make better buying decisions for phone systems, VoIP, and connectivity. During this time, we’ve facilitated the connection of 45 000+ users through our network of 500+ telecom providers in our directory.