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Continuous operations are business activities of a sustained nature, continuing without reaching a stopping point. This includes business operations used to keep a business open, as well as short-term continuous operations, activities designed to support the completion of a set project. There are a number of concerns involved with such operations that must be addressed during their planning, as well as on a regular basis to ensure they run smoothly and efficiently.
A classic example of continuous operations can be seen in the routing systems used by phone companies. Customers of the phone company can pick up a phone at any time and dial a number and they will be connected by electronic routers, human operators, or both, depending on the region and the situation. These operations are not designed to stop; when people pick up phones, they expect to hear a dial tone and be able to place a call. Delivery of other utility services like water, sewer, and electricity is also a form of continuous operations.
Because these operations never shut down, some unique challenges are posed. With other types of business activities, when a problem develops, operations can be halted to fix it, or maintenance and repairs can be conducted after hours. In continuous operations, measures like shifting loads and enacting repairs on live systems are necessary. In cases where systems do shut down in emergencies, like when power companies cut the supply to their customers after a power line goes down, services need to be restored as quickly as possible.
Infrastructure maintenance can be challenging, and may require the development of systems to temporarily take loads while the primary system is worked on. Likewise, replacement of worn systems can be difficult. When replacing a bridge, for example, construction crews cannot simply take out the old bridge to make room for a new one. Instead, they must build the new bridge next to the existing one to allow people to continue using the original bridge while they develop the replacement.
24-hour availability of personnel, every day of the year, is critical for continuous operations. Emergency personnel can be called out at any time to address developing problems with the system and other concerns, and 24-hour staffing may be required for certain types of operations. At nuclear power plants, for example, staff members monitor systems at all times so they can take rapid action if problems develop at the plant, both to ensure a steady delivery of electricity, and to limit the risk of serious accidents.
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