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Between holiday travel and the stormy winter weather many regions experience, now is the time to start planning and implementing solutions that will help organizations maintain business continuity no matter what. From inaccessible offices to lost laptops, the winter months can present a heightened business continuity risk for many companies.
Every year, winter storms wreak havoc on business continuity. The most commonly thought of event is a major snowstorm that leaves employees unable to reach the office. These can last for days until roads are safe to drive on again and if employees have no reliable way from working from home they’re stuck idle and unproductive. In many cold weather regions, these types of events aren’t an “if” but a “when,” reliably happening to some degree at least once a season.
It’s not only large storms though, even smaller weather events can impact how productive employees are. A smaller storm that takes out power to the office or a particularly icy night that leaves roads unsafe in the morning can all affect an organization if the company doesn’t have a way for employees to work at home when needed.
Business continuity also goes hand in hand with disaster recovery. It might not be your office or employees that are affected by weather. If a particularly bad storm takes a server location offline your entire organization can grind to a halt if you don’t have a DR plan in place with the redundancy to keep data and applications accessible.
The last few months of the year are packed with family-oriented holidays. While some people live close to family, it’s not uncommon today for many employees to have to travel long distances for the holidays. While this is a good time for many people to use vacation days, others may prefer to travel when convenient and work remotely while away from the office. Not allowing or enabling employees to take this approach can mean organizations lose productivity that they didn’t need to. Worse, it may leave organizations short staffed during the critical end-of-year push.
Increased travel during the holidays can also lead to a spike in lost or forgotten devices. Between extremely busy airports, the stress of traveling during the holiday rush and the general excitement of family coming and going, it’s not uncommon for laptops, tablets or phones to be left somewhere. Sometimes the employee may be able to recover the device (i.e. it was forgotten at a family member’s house and simply needs to be mailed back) and other times they’re gone for good (i.e. left in an airport). Either way, this could take the employee offline for a few days while a new device is procured and provisioned. In situations where the device contained protected data, it may constitute a compliance breach if the right security and control measures weren’t in place, creating an even bigger issue.
It’s easy to just hope for the best or assume nothing will happen, but when you sit down and properly assess the potential ramifications of interrupted business continuity it becomes clear that this gamble isn’t worth it.
One of the best ways to assess risk is by establishing the cost of having an employee completely down for one day. Consider things like the delay to projects, impacted customer service (experience, wait times, etc.) and revenue loss. This will give you a baseline and allow you to put a number to different scenarios such as:
If you have rough data on these types of events from previous years, you can establish an even more accurate impact assessment. While some business leaders may be hesitant to take action when scenarios seem abstract, having real numbers to look at can be the impetus they need to take meaningful action toward ensuring business continuity.
The crux of business continuity is untethering employee productivity from a single device in a single location. If an employee (or all your employees) can only work from the office or using their company-issued device, you leave the organization open to a lot of risk.
Desktop virtualization enables employees to access their corporate desktops, data and applications from any device, anywhere, allowing them to continue working through many of the scenarios covered above. During weather events that make the office inaccessible, employees can log onto their desktops and work from home as long as their house still has power and internet. Even if employees use traditional desktop computers at the office or don’t bring laptops home, they can securely access their virtual desktop from a personal computer and have access to all the data and applications they do at work – with your company security and controls still in place.
The same benefits apply while traveling, meaning an employee can travel for the holidays as needed and work securely while they’re remote. This can gain an organization days of productivity. For example, an employee may be able to travel during the weekend before Thanksgiving and work remotely Monday through Wednesday from a family member’s house. Without this ability, they may need to take the entire week as vacation, costing the company three days of productivity that the employee was willing to work in the first place. If a device is lost or left behind during travel, the employee can simply access their desktop from a different endpoint with no additional provisioning, dramatically limiting downtime.
With colder weather rolling in and the holidays looming, companies that care about business continuity should take steps now to ensure productivity isn’t disrupted this winter.
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