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Lessons from a Cyclone: how fixed wireless networks can save your business in a natural disaster

Ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie made landfall on March 28, bringing category 4 winds up to 260 km/h, and the highest March rainfall ever recorded in more than 60 North Queensland locations.

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Mother Nature doesn’t discriminate, and businesses of all sizes have been left devastated in the wake of Cyclone Debbie. And while the material damage bill is expected to top $1billion, the amount lost in downtime due to network outages could amount to just as much.

Operation digital

In today’s always-on, digital world, your business is only as good as its connection. Even the most basic of operations are becoming ‘digitised’ as organisations look to simpler and cheaper cloud-based options. File sharing apps like Dropbox and real time co-authoring tools afforded by the likes of Google Docs and Office 365 have revolutionised everyday working life. Even the old school phone call has benefited from a digital makeover, with virtual IP PBX systems facilitating seamless calls between workers in any location – in transit, interstate, or in another country.

Cloud computing, after all, is just a fancy way of saying internet-based computing. Without an internet connection, the cloud wouldn’t exist, and nor would Amazon, Uber, AirBnB, or Netflix – the ‘born in the cloud’ companies with which we’re so familiar today.

Don’t neglect the network

The details of business continuity and disaster recovery plans are widely discussed, but what’s often overlooked is the key role corporate network plays in preventing the worst case scenario for businesses in times of disruption.

Yet, for organisations with traditional broadband connections – terrestrial IP, ADSL, or 3G/4G – a network outage is almost a certainty if a cyclone like Debbie crosses their path.

Just one severed cable can put an organisation out of action for days, resulting in big productivity losses. For organisations running mission-critical systems, such as customer service centres and financial trading houses, a major network outage can be disastrous. The recent experience in North Queensland is testament to this reality for many businesses.

Introducing the fixed wireless network

The risk of natural disasters are a big reason to consider a fixed wireless network for your business; a type of high-speed internet access where connections to service providers use radio signals rather than cables.

Traditional methods use fibre or copper cable to carry data underground, making them vulnerable to extreme weather events such as torrential rain and flooding. Even if the mobile towers they’re connected to are cyclone rated, there is a risk that debris from extreme winds could damage the antennae and other equipment.

In contrast, rather than a physical connection to a terrestrial network, fixed wireless technology only requires the installation of a radio transceiver. An organisation is connected to the network through the transceiver, which is wired into their LAN using a standard Cat 5 Ethernet cable.

This is partly why BigAir’s microwave links, which spread 30km across water from Airlie Beach to Hayman Island, were uninterrupted during Cyclone Debbie, and ensured users were back to business quickly in the affected areas. This was partly due to excellent maintenance with the radio link having been recently upgraded to support up to 200Mbps.  See bottom of article for signal and throughput charts during the relevant period.

On the safe side

Thankfully, most organisations won’t have to deal with a cyclone, but since even minor disruptions can be a threat to broadband connections, it’s a good idea to consider upgrading your network. With the demand for bandwidth only increasing as more business processes are digitised, the traditional methods of connecting organisations are under growing pressure.

Sheltering your organisation from the storm is not the only area where fixed wireless networks add value. Traditional fibre can be prohibitively expensive and impossible for businesses in remote locations, while ADSL and 3G/4G networks are simply too slow for the digital world. Without prohibitive physical connections and with better technology, fixed wireless networks deliver a more cost effective, higher performing solution. Read our blog here for more on this.

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BigAir extends our sympathies to all those affected by Cyclone Debbie.

 
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Topics: Fixed Wireless Network, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity, fixed wireless

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