Sandy washed away contingency plans across New York region

November 3rd, 2012

Over the next several weeks we plan on discussing more robust disaster plans.  Even on 9/11/01 and during the aftermath of the destruction in Lower Manhattan we did not see the kind of interruption of service that we have seen this past week.  How can a business plan for the worst case scenario?  I think that there is a lot we can learn about what worked and what did not during and immediately after hurricane Sandy swept through the East Coast.

The following article discusses some of these issues:

* Wide swath of storm took out backup facilities miles away

Sandy washed away contingency plans across New York region

 

Hurricane Sandy Service Update: Verizon Technicians Out in Force This Weekend to Restore Services, Serve Customers

November 3rd, 2012

BASKING RIDGE, N.J., Nov. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Tens of thousands of Verizon engineers, technicians and customer-service employees are working this weekend as they continue to restore voice and data communications, Internet and TV service to consumers, business…

Hurricane Sandy Service Update: Verizon Technicians Out in Force This Weekend to Restore Services, Serve Customers

 

Hurricane Sandy Crisis Update – Day 4

November 3rd, 2012

After four days, the majority of our clients now have at least partial telephone service.

This storm caused the unthinkable- complete failure of telecommunication services.  Even the “last resort” option of forwarding incoming calls directly through the “telephone company” switch to a cellular telephone was no longer an option.  Put in the simplest terms: The “telephone company” switches themselves had failed.  All of the years of planning took into consideration back-up generators, batteries and fuel reserves.  But they did not take one simple thing into consideration: Fuel pumps.  The fuel pumps play a vital role of delivering the fuel from tanks located in or under basements up to the floors in the data centers where the generators are located.  These fuel pumps failed when basements were flooded.

As of today, many carriers are running on emergency generator power.  Switches are not completely operational- they are running in “emergency mode” and we will still have issues of incomplete inbound and outbound calls due to the overwhelming demand being placed on equipment.

As for cellular service, many providers have been overwhelmed by the volume of calls going over their networks.  Also, many of the towers were damaged or knocked out of alignment during the hurricane.  Some providers are doing better than others.  My service, Sprint, has done quite poorly.  Only now am I starting to receive the majority of calls to my cellular.

 

Post-Hurricane Sandy Telecom Update

November 1st, 2012

Dear Clients: Due to severe flooding during hurricane Sandy thousands of business customers have been left without telephone service. As the expression goes- a picture is worth a thousand words:

Verizon's 140 West Street Facility during height of the storm

Verizon’s 140 West Street Facility during height of the storm

Many of the major data centers that house New York’s and quite frankly, the nation’s communications carriers are located in Lower Manhattan.  These centers are prepared for most disasters.  They have battery and generator back-up, they have redundant service feeding them and they are designed to service most natural and manmade disasters.  In this case, hurricane Sandy’s wrath was overwhelming.  It is our understanding that water is rushing in to the basement of several of these facilities faster than the water pumps can get it out.

Our sources tell us that the majority of service that is down will continue to be down until Monday.  This is affecting dozens of carriers including Verizon, Paetec/Windstream, and other carriers. It is also affecting the ability to have inbound calls forwarded to another number.

In addition, power is still down for most of Lower Manhattan posing a different problem for businesses with offices located South of 39th Street.

We are working hard to provide our clients with alternatives.  One alternative is to provide them with SIP telephone service off of our Hosted PBX platform and provide them with temporary telephone numbers.  In the case of customers affected by service outages we have had to provide them with new, temporary numbers.  But if the service itself is unaffected but you are down due to power issues this solution would allow you to have your inbound calls forwarded to the temporary number we assign and you can make and receive calls.

For more photos, video and information you can read the article that appeared in the November 1, 2012 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

For additional photos showing the efforts to restore service by WindStream/Paetec at their facility at 75 Broad Street please go to their news site here.

 

Hurricane Sandy – Emergency/Disaster Plan

October 30th, 2012

Dear Clients:

First, I hope that everyone is well and that your families and homes are safe.

All of our Hosted PBX clients are unaffected.  Our primary data center is located out of state and was selected because it was in an area that could never flood.

For our “traditional telephone system” clients in Lower Manhattan that are without power or that have no service because of flooded basements, we can provide you with temporary emergency service via our Hosted PBX solution.  You will be able to have your providers remotely call forward your main telephone number to the temporary number we provide.  (The same is true for your fax lines- we can provide you with an eFax account)

As an alternative, if your cellular telephones are still working (mine is not- Sprint towers appear to be down in my area) you can have your calls forwarded to your cellular.  But please note that this will limit you to two inbound telephone calls and the third call will most likely get a busy signal.

 

Antivirus Tool Fail: Blocking Success Varies By 58%

October 29th, 2012

A very interesting article which highlights the need for network security.  Antivirus and software “security suites” are just not enough.

At a minimum, a small business should incorporate a hardware firewall, antivirus and other tools.  Regular system maintenance and check-ups are also important.  You would be surprised at how many prospective clients I visit that do not even have antivirus software installed on their workstations, servers and laptops.  Article from Information Week:

Only two of 13 endpoint security software scanners blocked more than 80% of known exploits, NSS Labs study reports.

Antivirus Tool Fail: Blocking Success Varies By 58%

 

US Supreme Court tries again on copyright importation problem

October 18th, 2012

A very interesting case will be going before the Supreme Court concerning the importation and sale of copyrighted Gray-Market media, one which I feel may have serious ramifications for telecommunications gray-market hardware sales.

There is not much difference between the copyright of a book and that of software.  While it may be difficult to stop the sale of gray-market telephones and telephone system equipment in the United States, if the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, it may open the door to manufacturers, distributors and dealers filing lawsuits against gray-market dealers because of the software included in the telephones and other electronic equipment.

Read the brief here:

http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/10/argument-preview-court-tries-again-on-copyright-importation-problem/

The Court’s November calendar features probably the most important copyright case since its 2003 decision in Eldred v. Ashcroft. Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. presents one of the fundamental questions for the globalized media world: whether a U.S. copyright holder can prevent the importation of “gray-market” products manufactured for overseas markets. When the Court tried to address this question two Terms ago – in Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Omega, S.A. – the Court was equally divided (with Justice Kagan recused) and left the Ninth Circuit’s decision (allowing the copyright holder to bar importation of those goods) undisturbed. The Court returns to the question in this case, in which all nine of the Justices apparently will participate…

 

FTC Challenges Innovators to Do Battle with Robocallers

October 18th, 2012

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Federal Trade Commission is challenging the public to create an innovative solution that will block illegal commercial robocalls on landlines and mobile phones. As part of its ongoing campaign against these illegal, prerecorded telemarketing calls, the agency is launching the FTC Robocall Challenge, and offering a $50,000 cash prize for the best technical solution.

This is the agency’s first government contest hosted on Challenge.gov, an online challenge platform administered by the U.S. General Services Administration, in partnership with ChallengePost. Challenge.gov empowers the U.S. government and the public to bring the best ideas and top talent to bear on our nation’s most pressing issues.

“The FTC is attacking illegal robocalls on all fronts, and one of the things that we can do as a government agency is to tap into the genius and technical expertise among the public,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, when he announced the challenge and prize this afternoon at the Commission’s Robocall Summit. “We think this will be an effective approach in the case of robocalls because the winner of our challenge will become a national hero.”

A commercial robocall is a telephone call that delivers a recorded sales message. These calls often are unwanted and frequently deceptive. Under the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, the vast majority of commercial robocalls are illegal unless the recipient has given the caller advance written permission to call them.

Challenge Details

The judges for the FTC Robocall Challenge are Steve Bellovin, FTC Chief Technologist; Henning Schulzrinne, Federal Communications Commission Chief Technologist; and Kara Swisher of All Things Digital. A complete list of official rules andfrequently asked questions are available immediately on Challenge.gov.

The FTC Robocall Challenge is free and open to the public. Entries will be accepted beginning on October 25, 2012, at 5:00 p.m. ET, until January 17, 2013, at 5:00 p.m. ET. Judges will evaluate the entries, and if a winning solution is identified, the FTC will announce the winner(s) early next April.

The Best Overall Solution prize will be awarded to an individual, team, or small corporation (an organization that employs fewer than 10 people) if a solution is developed based on the following criteria:

Does it work? (50 percent)
Is it easy to use? (25 percent)
Can it be rolled out? (25 percent)

Additionally, organizations that employ more than 10 people may compete for the FTC’s Technology Achievement Award, which does not include a cash prize.

As part of the challenge, the FTC announced it will provide participants, or “solvers,” with data on de-identified consumer complaints about robocalls made between June 2008 and September 2012.  Solvers interested in this data will receive periodic updates with contemporary data through December 31, 2012. The complaint data will include: date of call; approximate time of call; reported caller name; first seven digits of reported caller phone number; and consumer area code.

The FTC has also been working with industry insiders and other experts to identify potential solutions. However, current technology still allows shady telemarketers to cheaply autodial thousands of phone calls every minute and display false or misleading caller ID information. Among these are the famously annoying calls from “Rachel From Cardholder Services.” For more information about the FTC’s robocalls initiatives, see www.ftc.gov/robocalls.

Q&A Social Chats

On October 25, 2012, the FTC will host two live social media chats for 60 minutes each to answer questions about the challenge. Chat participants can follow the @FTC Twitter handle and are encouraged to ask questions beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET on Twitter using the hashtag #FTCrobo. Immediately after the chat, at 2:00 p.m. ET, staff will answer questions on the agency’s Facebook page.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.  To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s onlineComplaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

 

SOURCE Federal Trade Commission

 

Podcast: Accessing Your Family Member’s Facebook Account after They Die

October 18th, 2012

What happens when your mom dies and the family wants to get access to her Facebook account? In today’s Lawyers.com broadcast, host Matt Plessner interviews Editor in Chief Larry Bodine about gaining access to a family member’s Facebook, Twitter or Flickr account after the person has passed on. There are now 1 billion Facebook accounts, 100 million Twitter accounts and 200 million LinkedIn accounts. Families are surprised when they contact a social media company after a family member dies …

Podcast: Accessing Your Family Member’s Facebook Account after They Die

 

Apple loses tablet copyright appeal against Samsung

October 18th, 2012

LONDON (Reuters) – Apple has lost its appeal against a ruling that cleared rival Samsung of copying its registered designs for tablet computers, in a decision which could end the two firms’ legal dispute on the subject across Europe.

Apple loses tablet copyright appeal against Samsung