The 24/7 Interconnected World and Its Susceptibility to Sudden Collapse

The Perils of 24/7 Interconnectedness

We live in a world that is not only integrated and interconnected largely but which also depends on complex supply chains across the world to deliver the goods and services that we need as part of our everyday existence.

With globalization, the movement of goods, services, and people has reached to such a feverish degree that we cannot envisage a world where we had to do without our consumption of goods designed in a particular country, produced in a different country, and consumed in a third country.

Take for instance Apple’s iPhone. It is designed in the United States, produced in China, and marketed globally.

Now, imagine what happens when there is a breakdown of transport or communication links between these countries. The distribution of the iPhones would be hit leading to a situation where consumers across the world are left without spare parts and components for their iPhones. This was what happened during the Japanese Earthquake in 2011 wherein the disruption of the global supply chain meant that electronic goods, their spare parts, and components were unavailable to consumers across the world.

Complex Global Supply Chains and Business Continuity Planning (BCP) Systems

Similarly, global businesses depend on complex communication links between the West and the East. For instance, the IT and BPO sector in the Asian countries depend on work outsourced from the West for sustenance.

Imagine the disruption that happens when the cables that service the internet and communication links are out of service. This was what happened recently when undersea cables were cut in an accident leading to denial of service from major internet service providers.

In the same manner, businesses have to be prepared for social unrest, natural disasters, and manmade disasters like terrorist strikes. In the last week or so, the entire city of Boston was shut down for a manhunt by the law enforcement agencies. This resulted in many global companies being unable to communicate with their American counterparts. This is another example of how our connected world leaves us at the mercy of what have been called “Black Swan Events” or those events that have very little probability of occurring but which carry substantial and high-risk elements.

In other words, global businesses have to be prepared for such events that disrupt their operations to a considerable extent and hence, must plan for such eventualities.

Need for Robust BCP Systems

This is where business continuity planning enters the scene and global businesses that have robust and foolproof BCP systems are able to manage the downsides and potential disruptions from such events.

For instance, during the 9/11 attacks, many global banks like Citigroup and Goldman Sachs were able to resume operations within a day or two as they had backup offices and standby datacenters ready to be ramped up at short notice.

Similarly, Asian IT and BPO companies have made BCP systems that include having employees who have visas ready to travel to the country where the backup office is located and have plans in place in these standby locations for them to ramp up quickly in case of any of the events that disrupt operations.

Closing thoughts on How as Individuals We are Also Affected

Whether at an individual level or an enterprise level, we have to be ready for sudden disruptions like the ones that knocked out the online banking services of major UK based banks recently. This means that as customers of the banks, we need to have alternative avenues of cash withdrawal available and as enterprises; these banks have to have BCP systems in plans that transition to the alternatives without losing much time in the process.

Indeed, just think of what would happen to your daily schedule if there were no internet for a day. Your whole day would be chaotic because you cannot access this site or any other sites that you depend for work, news, and pleasure.

The point here is that with 24/7 interconnectedness, our vulnerabilities increase and hence, whether we are a working professional, a student, or a BCP systems manager in an enterprise, we need to be ready for the “unknowns” that threaten our global lifestyles and working patterns.

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