March 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami Issue
For many of us the earthquake in Japan and subsequent tsunami and nuclear disasters have come as a huge shock. We hope that you and your friends and family are safe and coping with the events.
As a result of the nuclear accidents, Denphone has setup a radioactivity monitoring system outside our office in Azabujuban. We have also connected this to the phone system and understand that this will be of some use to the members of the Japan Federation of the Blind. Whether you use the web version (Denphone Tokyo Office Geiger Counter) or the phone version, we hope you find this service useful.
In this issue we have an interview with Dan O'Brien from Take Tokyo - Japan's leading social network and media relations company - and his experiences of the quake. We also take a look back at an interview with Gary Binda - An Introduction to Business Contingency Planning (BCP). We hope that interview is of use - the information contained being even more relevant after recent events.
As ever, if you would like to see something featured in Denphone Digest, feel free to contact us and we will see what we can do for you.
If you are having trouble reading this email version, click to read the web version: Denphone Digest March 2011.
In this issue:
- Presidents Corner - Huw Williams
- Denphone Systems - Current System Status
- Denphone Tokyo Office Geiger Counter
- Take Tokyo - Shakers and Movers
- An Introduction to Business Contingency Planning (BCP)
- Tokyo VoIP & Asterisk Lounge (April 14 2011)
- Around the Internet: Useful Links
We are now two weeks into the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis and the story is still unfolding. Thankfully, there has been progress in bringing the reactors and used fuel ponds under control, but the focus has now shifted towards possible contamination of food and water supplies. Hopefully there will be some progress in identifying and mitigating these new risks very soon.
One aspect of this whole situation that has been highlighted is the attitude of management towards Business contingency planning (BCP) and Disaster recovery (DR). There really needs to be fundamental change in attitudes. Before these recent events BCP/DR budgets were being cut back and plans delayed. It was almost as if little had been learned from 9/11, when the same pattern unfolded. Immediately after 9/11, BCP/DR budgets were doubled or tripled, but then after a few years interest waned, and the budgets were again severely cut. A major Japanese bank being unable to process transactions for several days should be a real wake-up call for better BCP/DR in Japan.
It remains to be seen whether that happens though, we can only hope so.
As many of you already know, we launched a free radiation monitoring service on our website last week. We recently added a dialin phone service too. The radiation levels we have measured in Azabu Juban have been low, and this aligns with the low levels in Tokyo generally reported in the press.
We are glad to report that all our staff were unharmed during the earthquake and we sincerely hope that all our readers and their families are safe. We did not suffer any damage to our systems or infrastructure and have been able to avoid any outages or disruption to client service.
Huw R. Williams
Our phone and network services have stayed up throughout, and continue to do so. Our monitoring systems are operating as normal. We are responding to client issues as required.
Due to the damage (and on-going situation) at the nuclear reactors in Fukushima and elsewhere, Tepco - the electric power utility, has been scheduling rolling power outages. These have not as yet affected central Tokyo. If your office is in an area that is effected by the rolling power outages you may suffer loss of connectivity. Mobile phones should remain operational.
Power outages can cause hardware failures due to stress on equipment. As ever we recommend you have a tested backup strategy in place in order to recover any data that may be lost due to such failure.
Loss of power to critical systems can be mitigated through the use of universal power supplies. Please contact us if you want more information regarding this.
Denphone has installed an Awere Electronics Corporation RM-70 geiger counter at their office in Azabujuban, Tokyo. Results from the counter can be seen online here: Denphone Tokyo Office Geiger Counter.
We have also connected the output to an IVR (interactive voice response) system so people can call in to get the latest readings. The system can be reached at the following numbers:
Here are outputs from the Geiger Counter (if you refresh these images you will be able to see the latest data):
4 hour reading
24 hour reading
One week reading
The units are micro sieverts per hour. See here for an explanation of sieverts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sievert.
The geiger counter is on the fourth floor and faces north.
Simon Gibson - 22-03-2011
You can visit their website here: www.taketokyo.com.
Take Tokyo is Japan's leading communications consultancy helping foreign companies bridge the language and culture barrier in Japan. Adept at communicating with the Japanese people through both traditional media as well as social media such as Mixi, Twitter and Facebook, Take Tokyo is in a unique position to help companies during these difficult times.
Simon Gibson: First of all, could you introduce yourself, and tell us a bit about what your company does here in Japan?
My name is Dan O'Brien. I am from the USA, where I studied Japanese at the University of California at Berkeley before coming to Japan in 1985. I started my career in Japan as a writer and translator, including writing in Japanese for local media. After a few years as a writer at an investor relations firm, I started off on my own. In 1995, I started an international communications consultancy in Tokyo. After this company was acquired by a multinational advertising group, I started the company that is now Take Tokyo Inc. This is also a communications consultancy with a heavy emphasis on media relations and events planning for multinational companies operating in Tokyo.
Simon: What was your experience of the earthquake?
Our office is in an old building which always shakes during earthquakes. We knew this one was different fairly quickly. The building swayed alarmingly, and we left in a hurry. People from Take Tokyo and a few other little companies in the neighborhood all gathered in a little park right across the road from our building. The earthquake was a long one and increased in severity as the seconds passed. Tall buildings were quite visibly swaying from side to side. There was a bit of screaming and shouting, but the loudest noise was from the quake itself. It sounded a lot like what you hear in a violent typhoon. I doubt I will ever forget that sound.
Simon: How has the catastrophe effected your business?
The initial reaction by clients has been to pull back on public relations activities in Japan. This might be a natural reaction, but now is actually the time to step up both business activities and communications. The country is still reeling, just starting to take stock of what has been lost. The logistics infrastructure remains a mess. So much is needed now and will become necessary in the weeks and months ahead. This is a time when multinational companies should be working their hardest to make sure the Japanese economy does not suffer any more lacks than it has to.
Simon: How has your IT infrastructure stood up to this catastrophe?
Because of the age of our building, we temporarily closed our office until we could be sure there was no unseen damage. Thanks to a very strong telecommunications infrastructure in Japan, we were all able to stay connected while working at home. Our Asterisk based VoIP system has remained up and functional without a pause. Calls were forwarded to my mobile phone until we got back to the office. All in all, keeping the business going has been a remarkably smooth job.
Simon: Is there anything you have learned from this event that might make future disasters more manageable?
It all came down to Internet access, especially WiFi. The Internet and Web were by far the most reliable methods for communicating in the hours and days after March 11.
One of the most notable "shocks" of this calamity was the lack of mobile phone service for many hours after it happened. People take their mobile phones for granted, and we certainly expect them to be usable after a disaster like this one. But the lines were dead for both voice and SMS messages for far too long. Also thanks to mobile phones, the number of public telephone booths is on the decline. The once prized telephone card is no longer present in every wallet. There were huge lines for the public phone booths around our office after the initial quake.
There are understandable technical reasons why mobile service just stopped, but the inability to communicate quickly with loved ones has been noted by the Japanese media. There will be changes made, I am sure. Personally, I think the best thing for Japan now would be to get rid of mobile phones and make the whole country a WiFi spot. The gap in reliability between 3G and WiFi was just too obvious.
Simon: You have been active in consulting on how Japanese companies can use social media for the public affairs and branding. What has the response been like in Japan? Has social media played a role in helping people deal with the disaster?
Twitter has been a success story in Japan for a while. The micro blog style and ability to "tweet" under an assumed name fit in well with the Japanese social network psyche, and Twitter has been an invaluable tool for disseminating reliable information to a wide audience. However, only six months ago Japanese media were wondering whether Facebook had a chance at success here. I would say this single disaster has answered that question for good. Those with a network connection were able to reassure their loved ones quickly via social networks such as mixi and Facebook. Volunteers began gathering on Facebook within hours of the tragedy, organizing themselves and figuring out what was needed and how the needs could be met. They could create ongoing conversations more easily than with Twitter, and there is no limit on the length of posts.
I have not seen the most recent data, but I would bet Facebook has seen a rapid jump in the number of registered users in Japan. On March 22nd, Prime Minister Naoto Kan's office even opened an official page on Facebook. The social network is in Japan to stay.
Simon: How can companies more effectively use social media to deal with events such as the Tohoku earthquake and the resulting tsunami and nuclear disasters? Are there any lessons to be learned going forward?
Social media are tools for communicating. But you have to have a presence, and setting up a mixi group or Facebook page is not something you want to have to do after the worst happens. The Prime Minister's office might be commended for creating a Facebook page, but it took them 11 days after the disaster to do it. The best thing to do is to have a social media presence before a disaster occurs. Once that presence is established, it can be quickly adapted for use as a bulletin board to inform the public or as an interactive tool for communicating with the public.
This interview ran in the May 2009 issue of the Denphone Digest. We are reposting it here as it is pertinent to the current situation.
Posted: 2009-05-12 3:43 pm by Simon Gibson.
Denphone's Simon Gibson spoke recently with Gary Binda about the work he has done in the field of Business Contingency Planning (BCP). Gary has worked for many years in the BCP and telecom industries and joined Denphone to help kickstart Denphone's BCP and Nortel PBX support services.
With the recent outbreak of Swine Influenza, many businesses have been given cause to rethink their contingency plans, so we thought it would be helpful to give an in-depth overview of Business Contingency Planning with a focus on Japan and companies in Japan, and including a look at BCP for small and medium size enterprises. Many companies run their BCP operations out of Hong Kong or Singapore, however there are Japanese-specific factors which also need to be looked at.
Simon: First of all, could you tell us a little about your experience with BCP?
Gary: Well, I started out in BCP with Morgan Stanley in 2000 just prior to 9/11. This was the period when BCP started to raise its head in the banking industry, and Morgan Stanley was one of the first to seriously take on BCP in Japan as part of their overall risk management program. As far as I am aware, they implemented the first fully-blown disaster recovery site in Japan.
At that time BCP was quite haphazardly managed throughout Asia, and working in BCP meant taking up what was basically a completely new role within the organization.
Simon: Can you give us a short overview of what BCP means for an organization?
Gary: There are two main thought process or strategies when considering BCP - namely "Guardianship" and "Going Concern".
Firstly, let me define what these are. A Guardianship strategy allows any company during a disaster to close their position, manage their risk and meet any regulatory obligations they might have. This means that they would need to understand and agree before-hand how they would want to recover the business.
A going concern strategy generally focuses on recovery and maintaining certain level of services to clients and getting the organization back on track after an emergency.
For a company such as Morgan Stanley, the benefits of a soundly implemented BCP plan were easily recognizable. It allowed Morgan Stanley to reassure their employees that they would be safe and their clients that they would be able to recover from a disaster - when you are asking any company to manage your assets, you really want to be assured that your assets are safe. It is therefore very important for any organization, both big and small, to understand that it takes years to build a reputation but seconds to loose it.
Simon: Was there much resistance to the BCP system when you started getting involved?
There was some initial resistance to the implementation of the BCP program - this mostly came from people on the floor, and was mainly due to lack of interest, and I would guess lack of understanding of how vital this program was to the reputation of the organization. Senior management understood the risks to the organization all too well. Once business leaders started to communicate about the BCP program to their staff the resistance subsided. It highlighted one of the really important factors in the building of an effective BCP program - this is true for any organization - good communication between all stake holders within the organization is critical when it comes to planning, building and testing your BCP plans.
Simon: Things must have changed in regards to BCP as a result of 9/11?
Yes, that certainly was a huge wake up call for a lot of organizations. I think up till that point, a great many people were quite blasé about BCP - especially outside of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom of course was very aware of the need for BCP programs as a result of the IRA's terrorist campaigns.
9/11 caused a lot of movement within the BCP industry - and a lot of chaos. One thing it did do from our perspective, was prove that the BCP program worked - we were back up and running within a few days because of the processes we had put in place during the planning and testing of the firms
BCP program. We were very busy coordinating the recovery process, this was a 24 hour job so we took it in turn regionally to coordinate to whole process.
There were a lot of lessons learnt from that experience, too much to cover in this interview, however, if you asked me to choose one, then that lesson would be Dependency Failure. What I mean by Dependency Failure is that while you may have great plans, if you do not know the recovery strategy for the people you depend on, be it vendors, clearing houses, telecom service provider etc, your plan will still fail since you have not factored in or planned for the failure of those entities. Service providers BCP programs' must be factored into any BCP planning program.
Simon: What were the major changes in BCP that you experienced during your time?
I think the biggest change is that BCP moved from being something that people wanted but didn't have budget for, to something that they had budget for and that was taken very seriously and incorporated into the corporate culture as a whole. It was clear to all that without a proper recovery strategy it was quite possible for businesses to fail. This was especially true with investment banks and clearing houses, but also many of the larger corporations based in Japan began to move in this direction.
Simon: Many people have an image of BCP being only for banks. How do you think BCP works for smaller businesses?
A lot of small companies think that it will be easy to recover because of their size, and to most small business owners it doesn't seem like something they need to think about in too much detail.
Here at Denphone we provide a service we like to call the circle. The "circle" is the process we use to help leaders in any organization think through the business processes, we then work with company appointed personal to assist in creating a Business Contingency Planning program. There are instances where disaster recovery is left to the information technology department, but it is essentially a business problem that requires a business process as its' solution. There needs to be a realization that DR applies to the organization as a whole. Awareness, training, participation and competence are required across the entire organization in order to survive and recover from any disaster. It is essential even in the smallest of companies that senior management sponsor disaster recovery planning from inception for it to succeed. It takes a few hours to sit down with a company to get an understanding of their systems and to better understand the type of recovery strategy that would work best for each company.
Simon: Are there any Japan specific considerations that need to be kept in mind when thinking about BCP?
Japan being very prone to earthquakes, is something that comes to mind. Companies do need to think this through carefully as different earthquakes damage different buildings in different ways. Depending on the building you are in, including what kind of material it is made of, how tall is it, when was it built and to what earthquake standards, dictates some of the thought process that one would need to consider before a plan can be made. However, since earthquakes are unpredictable and will more that likely affect everyone it would be a good idea to have have a good communication strategy in place as well as ensuring that all vendors and business counterparts BCP plans are known.
In general though, and this covers all the process that incorporate a BCP strategy, regardless if it is being implemented in Japan or elsewhere, a Sponsorship Strategy by which the DR plan can be implemented with full cooperation from senior management should be created. Initiate a Facility Risk Assessment to identify various risks to a company's business facilities. Direct input is required from external sources including building management, utility companies and public services.
The information gathered during this phase will be a sub-set of the more comprehensive Business Impact Analysis. Initiate a Business Impact Analysis or BIA. This is done with the co-operation of a DR representative from each internal department. It also includes all external vendors and counter-parties that are critical to a company's' business model.
Develop feasible and timely Business Continuity procedures, also known as Business Recovery Operating Strategies, to guarantee continuity of business when there is either an interruption at a site or when critical internal or external dependencies are disrupted. This section provides logistical support for recovery that would be difficult to assemble on-the-fly in the wake of a disaster. This process also helps to determine whether a separate facility is necessary for a variety of disaster scenarios.
Information gathered during the Facility Risk Assessment and BIA stages are used to create effective strategies.
Define how the business organization should react to safeguard life and property immediately following a disaster, also known as Emergency Response and Recovery Operations. Information that is gathered needs to be prepared in a variety of formats to meet the needs of regulators, employees, clients and shareholders. It is best to begin planning for the time required to create Documentation from the inception of the DR program. Execute a company-wide Disaster Awareness and Training Campaign, with assistance from your DR team, to increase awareness and encourage participation. Schedule a Disaster Recovery Test with employee participation to allow them to confront the possibility of disaster and to be better prepared to respond rationally to the chaos that often accompanies a crisis. The knowledge gained from this initial experience should lay the groundwork for subsequent tests that must be planned throughout the year. Complying with these eight standards will help to ensure successful recovery of critical business areas when a disaster or prolonged disruption of services occurs.
Simon: Obviously with your background you must have a good understanding of how phone systems fit into the BCP picture. Could you tell us a bit about that?
First of all identify as part of your Crisis Management process a call tree program, this is used to contact and communicate all across the organization.
Other things to think about include programs such as Denphone's own Voiceblast system, ensuring that your recovery site is on separate voice grid to your main office. Implement an effective communication program which should be tested regularly to contact employees, clients and counter-parties - a system like Voiceblast can automate this. Another recommended solution may include satellite phones which provide one to one communication. Satellite phones are expensive, but if they are only used once a year then the cost is not that great, and only select senior management require them.
Simon: How do you see the future of BCP developing?
It is quite interesting to look at the way most companies are moving to more of a campus computing environment and how this removes the need for dedicated backup data centers for BCP - as the data is replicated within the campus environment.
This also helps with reducing the costs involved with BCP and gives you greater peace of mind regarding the applications and assets that your BCP plan identifies. So the focus has switched more from equipment to identifying the people necessary to recover the systems. This is better than a per building piecemeal recovery solution, and can be run out of any site you choose.
From a small business perspective, cloud computing provides a great, inexpensive solution and from my point of view provides the future of BCP for small organizations and also for how they build data centers in general. Denphone can assist any organization large or small with their BCP requirements, from helping organization with specific studies, (BIA, BCP Plan building program, infrastructure analysis) to building programs from the ground up.
As a result of the Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami, April's special event with Nakayo has been postponed to May 12. Please check back for more details. Our normal event in Azabujuban will be held instead.
The Tokyo VoIP and Asterisk lounge is a chance for Asterisk and VoIP enthusiasts to get together to discuss topics of interest in a relaxed informal atmosphere.
The VoIP & ASTERISK LOUNGE is a monthly event held on the second Thursday of each month, or the third Thursday if the second Thursday is a public holiday in Azabujuban, Tokyo.
This event is attended by both English and Japanese speakers and everyone is welcome to attend.
Date: 14th April 2011 6pm - 10pm
Location: Café Marché - formerly Cafe Lolita (map). Café Marché , 1F Mademoiselle Bldg, 1-4-8 Azabu-Juban. Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6234-0122. Open Mon-Thu 11:30am-2am, Fri-Sat 11:30am-4am, Sun & hols 11:30am-midnight.
Cost: Free Entrance. Drinks are between 500 and 900yen.
Directions: From Azabu-juban Station it is 1 minutes walk from Exit 7. Go up the stairs and turn right and Café Marché is on the right. Azabujuban is on the Namboku and Oedo subway lines. It is bit of a walk underground from the Namboku line ticket gates.
If you get lost on the night give Denphone a call on 03-4550-1405 and we will point you in the right direction.
We look forward to seeing you there!
This months picture is from: The United States Navy.
SENDAI, Japan (March 12, 2011) An SH-60B helicopter assigned to the Chargers of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 14 from Naval Air Facility Atsugi flies over the city of Sendai to deliver more than 1,500 pounds of food to survivors of an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and a tsunami. The citizens of Ebina City, Japan, donated the food, and HS-14 is supporting earthquake and tsunami relief operations in Japan as directed. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
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Denphone K.K. is Japan's leading provider of open PC based VOIP Telephone PBX systems. Denphone supplies Digium / Asterisk solutions, Cisco, Polycom, Nortel, snom and Grandstream phone and video systems as well as our own bespoke solutions.
Denphone is centrally located in Tokyo's Minato Ward in Azabujuban. We can be contacted by telephone on 03-4550-1405, via this contact page or by reply to the address this magazine was sent from.
Our postal address is: #402 Azabu Nagasaka Bd, 1-4-8 Azabujuban, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0045 Japan.