On Command with disaster recovery center

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Sunday, January 1, 2006

CORONA, Calif.--The Command Center, a third-party monitoring business, created a disaster recovery center 45 miles from its southern California location to ensure continuous operation when disaster strikes.
The disaster recovery center will roll out this quarter, after a year and one-half of preparation. It will have a separate telephone switch from a different carrier, but all other station elements will mirror its existing site with automation servers and workstations.
The facility will be unmanned. However, should the current central station become unusable, "we can reroute our signals and are close enough to drive to the fully functional location," said Morgan Hertel, central station manager.
It was practical for the company to set up a disaster recovery center as natural threats and other issues that prompt evacuation can happen without notice.
"All it takes is a phone call to the local police saying a bomb is in the building or an envelope filled with powder gets opened," Hertel said.
Those types of threats call for time out of the building, which could be anywhere from hours to days, Hertel said.
As monitoring stations monitor valuable and personal assets around the clock for customers, it is critical to have a redundancy plan to receive alarm signals. More often than not, centrals team with outside companies that provide a form of redundancy, such as DICE software and its disaster recovery centers, to which a central station can subscribe, or SIMS, which offers software redundancy, where operators can tap remotely into the central station over the Internet in case there is a need to evacuate.
Irv Fisher, chief technology operator at A.P.I. Monitoring, said that Command's move to create their own redundancy center is unique.
"We see that the cost [of redundancy services] has dropped. [More central stations] can afford to do that. It [a physical base operation] is still very costly, that's the reason why companies like DICE got into this business," Fisher said.
The Command Center examined the outside-partner options, but, said Hertel, in the end decided it wanted to have a base of operations from which to work.
"We looked at several options and this [base of operation] was the route we all felt more comfortable with today," Hertel said.
Other central stations often use a "buddy system or pooling," which directs alarm signals to separate functioning monitoring locations operated by another company or same. Yet, rarely does a monitoring company create a disaster recovery center operation, as it has to run on the same software and mirror the primary central station, Fisher added.
Command recently completed an automation upgrade to provide flexibility. The central migrated from MAS's B32 Unix system to GE MAS's MasterMind monitoring.
With just under 20,000 accounts, and a 65/35 commercial-to-residential make up, the central focuses on service rather than volume.
"We provide a high level of service to our dealers. We want the dealers to be giving the same type of service to the subscribers," Hertel said.
"It [the upgrade] put us into an open database that we can query any way we want to. We have many more tools and features giving us the ability to move forward and keep up with technology."