Will working-from-home “work” when you need it most? Do you need a disaster recovery plan? Telework is getting more popular every year — based on current trends, with no growth acceleration, regular telecommuters will total 4.9 million by 2016, a 69% increase from the current level but well below other forecasts. In fact, the US government’s Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 mandates that every department head identifies who is eligible, partially for emergency readiness, but also to reduce energy use and increase employee retention. Teleworking has a few basic requirements:
- A secure place to work
- A secure computing platform
- Sufficient and secure data bandwidth
- Access to appropriate voice services Power
- No regulatory requirements for employee monitoring
Stockbrokers generally cannot telework due to monitoring regulations. Similarly, call center employees may need special voice equipment, although Voice over IP (VoIP) soft phones should work with many call center applications.
I am seeing more and more companies implementing telework as a workplace recovery strategy, and can’t help wondering if the planners truly thought through all the implications of their decision. When an incident occurs, it is imperative that your critical employees get back to work no matter why they cannot be in the office. And in most cases, telework will not meet this key objective.
As every business continuity practitioner knows, disasters come in three major sizes; single site, localized, and regional. Single site disasters affect one company or one building, localized disasters may affect one or a handful of city blocks, and regional disasters impact a much larger area. Some examples in the United States might be a fire in your computer room, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina or a pandemic.
As long as your computing infrastructure is running in your data center or your hot site, telework might be a reasonable option in the case of a single site disaster. Of course, your remote access infrastructure needs to be up, along with internet access through your contracted network provider.
In the case of a localized or regional disaster, telework could be problematic for several reasons. Unlike a traditional hard-wired phone line, there are no government uptime regulations around Internet service providers or local cable and DSL providers. When the power goes out, your landline is required to work for a minimum of 24 hours by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but the same isn’t true for your cellular, VoIP and data connections – assuming that you have power in your house to charge your cellular device or keep your router powered up.
In a single-site disaster or a pandemic, your voice and data connections most likely will be up and your house or local coffee shop will have power. But with most of the city also stuck at home, bandwidth could be constrained by your neighbors also teleworking, playing games on their XBOX, and streaming dancing cat videos.
Telework might be okay for lower priority job functions that can be jettisoned when a larger incident occurs, but for employees that support mission critical and revenue-producing business processes, you need other options available when telework is not possible.
Commercial workplace recovery solutions may seem more expensive than outfitting your employees to work from home, but unless you have done a business impact analysis, you cannot be certain that the cost isn’t more than offset by the potential losses you would incur if your business comes to a halt.
This article was originally published on Forbes.