Why one company declined cloud-based 'crisis communications system'

By , Network World |  Security, cloud security, voip

Cloud-based services are still often seen as too risky for sensitive information. Take the case at Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman Chemical Company, which said "no" to the cloud when designing its new crisis communications system.

Eastman Chemical, which operates chemical manufacturing facilities, decided to put in a new messaging system for interactive early warning notifications to thousands of employees in the event of any kind of emergency. They wanted one that would be IP-based with integration with Microsoft Lync VoIP, Eastman's Active Directory as well as its legacy corporate pagers and radio systems. They could have chosen a cloud-based option from the vendor they selected, AtHoc. But it was decided the data Eastman Chemical might be sharing from its dispatch center was simply too sensitive to consider using a cloud-based service.

"Eastman retains all messages on the Eastman network," says Keith Bennett, area supervisor, plant protection services, emphasizing that no emergency notification message is allowed to leave the Eastman corporate network, even though a cloud-based notification service for this was possible through AtHoc.

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Through the customized crisis communications system, a central dispatch system is functioning around the clock in order to direct a range of notifications to individual computers, VoIP phones, texting, RSS feeds, as well as e-mail, phones, pagers and two-way radios.

The kind of information that could be sent to thousands of Eastman employees via the IP-based live response system might pertain to anything from tornados, fire, medical and chemical safety to possible terrorism. It's tailored to send messages to appropriate individuals via VoIP phones, mobile devices and computer pop-ups, allowing them to respond about safety status. "We needed to take advantage of new technologies but we use legacy radios and pagers," Bennett points out.

Because it's considered "operations critical" messaging, Eastman decided that this was all too sensitive to permit the information to travel outside its private network and into the cloud and it was a requirement that AtHoc had to build the system for Eastman to keep it closed in that way.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail: emessmer@nww.com

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