Petrochemical giant BP has put in place a multi-level communications strategy which includes using Skype, to keep in touch with staff in the event of a major disaster.
Following the hurricanes that damaged its oil facilities in Texas city, the Tsunami and concerns over avian flu, BP established a disaster plan that combines consumer-based technology, public and mobile telephone systems, the internet and satellite to ensure staff can be found and re-establish communications across the BP supply chain.
Speaking at the Burton Group conference in Barcelona, Ted Davis, group telecom director at BP said, "In the hurricane we lost telephony but the internet was okay," so staff were able to use BP e-mail and applications. As a result, the company is deploying a road warrior kit comprising Skype and eFax faxing software and has doubled the capacity of its virtual private network (VPN) to provide remote access.
Davis said. "We like Skype because it does not rely on infrastructure." Three hundred satellite phones based on the low Earth orbit Iridium service are also being used within BP's global crisis centres.
BP has also moved from a hub and spoke wide area network model to two global providers of MPLS network services. Across 60 sites, users connect to the corporate network via the internet, which Davis said improves resilience as the end user would be able to connect via any available ISP.
To maintain communications in the event of the data centre being taken out, Davis said end users provide an alternate, non-corporate, e-mail account such as Yahoo! Mail, which is stored within the company's Outlook Global address book.
Staff have been issued with a telephone callcard to enable them to call in if they are safe or to request help. They can also register via a public website. This service is operated both by telecom provider Dialogic and BP in order to double up on resilience.
The address book is downloaded locally onto end-users' laptops, to ensure it can be accessed, even when an online connection is unavailable.