A few people have asked me about what they should do regarding business continuity as a result of the recent heavy snow falls.  I have pointed many of them to the excellent business continuity plan template that the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment published recently for the H1N1 flu virus and which is equally applicable to the current weather conditions.

Also the following post from February of last year is also worth reading;

Weather wise it has been an interesting week in Dublin to say the least.  We had our first major snow fall in many years.  While the volume of snow we got may not be anything compared to what some of you get in more continental climes, it was still large enough to make life uncomfortable for us Irish people who are used to our winters being windy and wet (kind of like our summers).

As a child I remember when snow would fall heavily enough for the schools to close and we ended up with free time on our hands thanks to a “snow day”.

So it was interesting to see how businesses were impacted by the weather this week and how they were impacted by the grown up version of “snow day”.  While these businesses did not close their doors, I know of many people who decided to work from home rather than face the chaotic traffic resulting from Irish drivers’ inability to deal with snow on the road.  Quite a few meetings were cancelled as people could/would not travel to attend. 

This made me wonder how many companies have their Business Continuity Plans updated to include how to deal with adverse weather conditions impacting on their staff not being able to get to work or to attend meetings with clients.  Most companies I have audited regarding their Business Continuity Management System seem to focus solely on the IT aspect of their company and what would happen if a disaster were to make those systems unavailable.  Very few include in the Business Continuity Plans what to do if key staff are suddenly unavailable.

So why not take a look at your own organisation and try and figure out what would you need to have in place should some of your key staff be unable to get to their place of work?  Some key questions to ponder;

  • How many concurrent remote users can your VPN support? 
  • If a large number of staff were to try to work from home on the same day would the VPN be able to cope with the traffic? 
  • Should you have a VIP VPN that can only be used by those staff in such scenarios?
  • Do your staff have work laptops or PCs to work from home?  If not how will you secure any data they may have on them while working from home?
  • Can staff use alternative mean to meet with clients such as online conferences or conference call facilities? 
  • Is your support desk prepared for the increased number of calls that they will get from remote workers who may not have tried to connect remotely for a while? 
  • Do they have appropriate tools to diagnose VPN issues and problems or indeed to remotely take over a PC to help troubleshoot it?
  • Will you have people on your support desk to support your users or will they too be victims of the snow day?

When it comes to Business Continuity planning you need to look beyond the availability of the systems and think of the impact different circumstances can have on them.  You should look closely at the ISO 27001 Information Security or the BS 25999 Business Continuity Standard to ensure that you have taken a structured and business focuses approach to your business continuity planning. 

Lets not make a snow day a no business day.

About the Author: bhimport

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