You hear a lot about the importance of having a solid business continuity strategy. Orange Business Services, a unit of France Telecom that provides communications services for multinational customers around the world, recently found out just how vital it is.Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning: The BasicsThe company operates a major customer support and service center in Cairo. During the unrest in Egypt earlier this year, the government announced a curfew and most of the staff of the Cairo center asked to remain home with their families until the curfew was lifted."We totally accepted that request, and a management and core operational team remained in the center while a partial business continuity plan was evoked," says Paul Joyce, senior vice president, customer services & operations at Orange. "The crisis team had been in place for many days prior to this, as we already knew that although our building was not near the main square, a curfew was a risk."The first step in the business continuity plan involved notifying all required staff globally to join immediately on a crisis conference call. A crisis manager was selected, "and within five minutes we confirmed that all designated centers were ready to accept the work transfer," Joyce says. "The phones were then diverted and each team that was based in Cairo had a pre-defined designation for the calls to be routed to."Within a 20 minute-period, all the phones in the Cairo center had been diverted to other service centers using a network-based intelligent routing service, and staff in other regions were online with the Cairo customers. Customer service managers were notified that the company was in full business continuity mode and received updates on the crisis so they could gauge the impact on their customers."We also introduced a SharePoint database where all communication could be stored and was updated on a real-time basis, including forums [that] received over 3,000 hits over the duration of the crisis," Joyce says.Orange Business Services' business continuity plan is updated yearly and tested twice a year. "Our global networks are redundant and resilient and enable rapid call re-routing centrally," Joyce says. Local customer support and service employees are spread out across the four major service centers in Brazil, Egypt, India and Mauritius, providing continuous customer support."Every product with which we go to market has multiple global support centers that can provide continuity if one center is inoperable," Joyce says. "The product then becomes part of an overall operational process that also has a plan developed, such as change management or service operations. Then, as an overall blanket, the building and infrastructure itself will have complete infrastructure redundancy, and a crisis management procedure developed."