If a big-box retailer lost its network—whether due to a minor electrical failure in the neighborhood or a major event such as a hurricane or earthquake—lost revenue and productivity could reach up to $10,000 per hour of downtime, warned David Myers, senior VP of marketing and corporate development for Spacenet Inc., McLean, Va., during the session “Non-Stop Networking for All Your Retail Applications” at TOPSS in Las Vegas in October. TOPSS, the Technology & Operations Store Summit, is produced by Chain Store Age and Retail Technology Quarterly.
“For the CIO of a large retailer, the important question to ask is not ‘How much can I afford for disaster-recovery communications systems?’ but rather, ‘How long can my business afford to go without critical data communications?’” Myers told attendees.
Spacenet Inc. provides equipment, service, installation and maintenance, and can serve as an outsource provider for many of the client’s IT and telecommunications needs. The company specializes in VSAT-based solutions for disaster recovery, business continuity, and remote- and mobile-communications needs.
With today’s focus on corporate accountability, it’s not just the IT department that has to consider the requirements for business-continuity communications.
“Protecting shareholder value by ensuring that a company can continue operations in spite of an unforeseen event is part of the fiduciary responsibility of every corporate executive and board member,” Myers said.
A hybrid solution ensures maximum uptime for retail applications, including point-of-sale (POS) systems, back-office applications, and emerging digital-signage and media solutions, by combining wireline and satellite technologies.
The challenge for many IT departments in retail is to justify the expense of a business-continuity communications system, Myers said. To help meet that challenge, there are a variety of cost-effective programs that enable the retailer to benefit from its “back-up” communications systems, while operating in normal mode.
Under this program, applications such as digital-content distribution or IPTV are broadcast over the satellite, while Internet access and POS transactions traverse the terrestrial lines. In the event of a terrestrial outage, the digital content and IPTV applications go offline and the more business-critical traffic switches over to the satellite.
There are also part-time “on demand” programs, where the retailer pays a nominal fee to have the network set up and online. It then pays only for the bandwidth it uses, if and when the back-up system is used. Either program enables a retailer to benefit from a highly secure and high-availability network that combines the best of both satellite and terrestrial technologies, while at the same time meeting the ROI objectives of the CFO.
“The key is planning far in advance and incorporating a disaster-recovery communications solution into the company’s overall operating plan,” Myers said.