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Flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi Could Overtax Communications Systems Among Insurance Companies, Response Organizations
In the aftermath of near record rain and flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi this weekend, a surge in communication system demand could drastically slow down the computer networks of insurance companies and emergency responders, unless those networks employ monitoring with expanded Unified Communications capabilities.

Storm problems this early in the year are a reminder that a very active hurricane season could be right around the corner. Network administrators should use this reminder to prepare their networks for even greater demands in the coming months.

Residents in the southern states of Louisiana and Mississippi - as well as Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama - were subjected to rain and flooding of historic levels. Some 10 to 15 inches of rain set off flash floods in parts of southwest Louisiana. President Obama has declared Louisiana a "major disaster" area. Officials estimate that as many as 1,000 homes could be flooded by the rising Leaf River in Hattiesburg, Petal and surrounding areas in Mississippi.

For residents in those areas, immediate response from emergency personnel is critical, as is open communication with insurance companies to assess damage. Unfortunately, some computer networks serving that area may see a slowdown due to unusually high demand.

Unified Communications (UC), which combines messaging, email, voice and video services, is increasingly being used by the insurance industry, as well as emergency and volunteer workers, to coordinate among those dispatched to stricken areas for disaster relief. When network demand shows signs of exceeding acceptable thresholds, service providers must react quickly or risk service slowdowns, call failures, or complete outages.

"It's essential that network administrators who serve the affected area be prepared for significant spikes in demand on their IT infrastructure," said Marcus MacNeill, Vice President of Product Management at Zenoss, a provider of unified monitoring and service analytics software. "When UC systems experience Quality of Services issues or outages after a natural disaster, it can impact the speed at which those affected can return their lives to normal."

MacNeill recommended that insurance agencies, emergency services, and volunteer organizations employ IT infrastructure monitoring and automated notification systems. By monitoring demand on their IT networks, these organizations will ensure better uptime, and identify possible risks to the performance of their UC capabilities before services are compromised.

Through a partnership with LayerX Technologies, Zenoss recently expanded its Unified Communications monitoring capabilities to allow customers to view and analyze overall access, quality and performance. Zenoss has launched UC Insight and Log Analytics, to provide end-to-end monitoring across Unified Communications systems as well as physical, virtual, and cloud-based IT infrastructures. The new offering provides Quality of Service analysis for all UC devices and tools.

"The best approach to take for critical systems is always a proactive one," said Zenoss' MacNeill. "IT organizations that are responsible for systems that by their very nature are subject to spikes in demand, need to be extra vigilant to ensure that demand doesn't hamper lifesaving services."

Published Wednesday, March 16, 2016 11:27 AM by David Marshall
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