Ross Armstrong, a senior research analyst at Info-Tech, an IT analyst firm for small and mid-sized companies, points out that in emergencies that prevent employees from reaching the workplace, such as disruption to transportation resources or public health quarantines, a working IT infrastructure is of little value.
"The recent London terrorist attack is prompting companies to look at their contingency plans," says Armstrong. "Most planners think about IT downtime or loss of power but don't consider situations in which the technology is working and their employees can't reach the office."
In the case of last week's bombings, he adds, many employees were not able to get to work because the transportation system was shut down. "The ability of business to continue in circumstances like these is a direct result of how well communication and information technology services are extended to the home for remote operations and teleworking," says Armstrong.
Info-Tech recommends enterprises review their disaster contingency Plans to incorporate key elements such as:
- Ensure the plan specifically identifies "key employees" that need to have system access, and define how they will have remote access to critical systems in the event they cannot reach the workplace. This could include enabling home computers for corporate access or issuing laptops.
- Set up a Virtual Private Network for PC access as well as remote teleconferencing and the ability to call forward business phones to home numbers.
- Make it a policy that laptop users take their PCs home nightly, even if they don't intend to do work at home that evening.
- Enable network administrators and system operators to do as much remote management as possible. In addition to line workers, IT operational staff needs remote system access to ensure business continuity.
These basic precautions will help CIOs implement measures to mitigate business risk where workers cannot gain physical access to their normal workplace.