In a world that a generation ago would marvel at the fabled reliability of telephone services it’s a shock to realise that network resilience is now back on the agenda. And, moreover, back on the agenda not just for major corporates with multiple interdependent production sites and call centres but for small businesses and ordinary households.
You might of course imagine that, if your home or business has just been hit by floods, that you have plenty more things to worry about than the loss of your broadband service. Indeed, until the power fails, you might reckon you could just get by with a mobile phone. But that would be to grossly underestimate the significance in all our lives of digital connectivity – very little in business works without it.
Every rain-laden cloud does however have a silver lining – and in this cold wet calamity that silver lining is a great lesson in network resilience. Computer Weekly has today profiled the story of recent UK flooding – revealing a basic flaw in networks that are hybrids of fibre and copper. Locating part of your electronics in street cabinets without scope for alternative power and with cooling vents open to the elements is not a good idea if one of those elements is water en masse.
In contrast, those networks designed specifically for the digital era by utilising fibre for the complete journey (FTTP) suffered few if any outages. Economists may have argued that replacing copper would be a huge expense for little obvious gain. Maybe they couldn’t figure the value of being future-proofed in terms of capacity and quality – surely, they’d say, how many really need a gigabit right now? Having that capacity at marginal cost in 5 year’s time is way beyond their commercial horizons. But now they need also figure the cost of flood damage repairs – and the impacts of service disruptions.
Good design (form) starts with understanding purpose (function) and in a digital economy it becomes even more important to understand that prevention is a but a fraction of the cost of repair. So, come hell or high water, infrastructure planners and investors must now take note of the cost of cutting corners.