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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 13 March 2020, 1:48 pm

Here's this week's update from TechBlog editor Paul Brislen.

This week: Disasters are good for making movies out of, getting the adrenaline going and of course updating those pesky business continuity plans.

And telecommunications - is it a help or a hindrance in your planning?

Never waste a good disaster

If you thought 2019 was a long and arduous year, I suspect you ain't seen nothing yet.

We were already facing the spectre of a year containing both a US election and a New Zealand one, not to mention the usual run of the mill madness around cybersecurity, privacy, social media and all the rest but now we have a global pandemic, the very real chance of a recession and countries making unilateral decisions seemingly on a whim.

Now the US is refusing flights from the European Union (but oddly not from the UK which both has COVID cases and is also still a member of the EU in a practical sense if not on paper), Italy is closed and by the time you read this I have no doubt other countries will likewise be on the exponential learning curve.

Here in New Zealand we are largely holding our breath and planning for the worst.

Which reminds me of the other times we've planned for the worst. Earthquakes (three big ones in the last decade) have forced companies and organisations in the Wellington to Canterbury corridor to really beef theirs up, and largely this time round I've heard positive noises from those who haven't let them lie.

Auckland, however, might be another matter. It's been a long time since we had a real world test of the BCPs and I suspect it was back when the lights went out in the CBD for six weeks. That was back in 1998 and for many of us that was the last time we ran a lot of useful planning exercises.

I was but a lowly junior reporter at the time, living and working on Queen Street and our BCP at IDG Communications consisted of me being sent to Hamilton with a laptop so old it had a greyscale screen and had to remain plugged in as the battery had given up entirely.

But I was lucky compared with the law firm across the road - having assured me their generator was ready to go, it went, but only for 15 minutes, before shutting itself down. It wasn't a large scale generator, just one designed to give you time to log off gracefully. The IT manager who hadn't tested the system fully was forced to carry servers down the stairs (all 15 flights or so) to drive them out to the suburbs.

No plan survives contact with the enemy but surely, having a relatively up-to-date plan is the bear minimum (EDIT: or as we like to think of it, bare minimum, that's a chocolate fish for Jenny) we can ask for these days. Hopefully we can use this latest event to upgrade our plans to current state, and be slightly better off when the next one sweeps through.

Techblog - Let the BCPs begin

Techblog - ITP event changes due to the Coronavirus

Techblog - The tech wreck 20 years on

The Register - Microsoft, Google, Slack, Zoom et al struggling to deal with spike 


Business Continuity Plan.jpg


Speaking of disasters, have you met Australian telcos?

One thing we can be thankful for is our telco infrastructure. We are very well served in terms of capacity and network competition. For a country of five million people we have three national 4G mobile networks, one fibre network, one copper network and dozens of wireless ISPs all offering service at a variety of speed points, prices and capabilities.

The Commerce Commission has done a good job of using its tools to drag the industry into the 21st century and now we're here it's glorious. Fibre to the home offering 1 Gbit/s connections for $100 a month means you never have to think about connectivity issues again.

Sure, it's not evenly distributed, and that is a problem, but compared with Australia which is facing a huge problem, we're well placed.

If 20% of the workforce goes home to work we Kiwis are probably going to be OK. In Australia I don't think they'll cope well with the need to video conference while the kids are playing games and their partners are also trying to work. Not on the NBN they won't.

Meanwhile the user base for copper is dropping but not fast enough for my liking. Maintaining two overlapping networks is not ideal and is a drag on Chorus's business model that we don't really need.

On top of that is the issue of those who don't want an internet connection, just a phone.

The Commerce Commission has put out a discussion paper and is seeking feedback on a set of draft protections for those consumers who rely on home phones for emergency calling. There's been a lot of shouting about old dears not being able to call for help if they have a fibre connection and the power goes out. Unlike the copper network (which is powered separately), fibre networks need a working power source at the user's end to make a call. In an outage, that's going to be a problem unless you have a mobile.

But of course, most people don't have curly-corded landlines any longer - they have cordless phones and those need power whether they're on copper or not.

The Commission is looking for feedback on a code that that will provide protection for these customers. I think they probably need help migrating to a cellphone instead, but that's just me.

Techblog - Fibre up, copper down

Commerce Commission - 111 contact code

NZ Herald - Who pays more for mobile & broadband: Aussies or Kiwis? Watchdog's answer (PAID)


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