Companies that want to protect their businesses from the potential impact of environmental and manmade disasters need to adopt a business continuity strategy that encompasses workplace recovery as well as traditional IT disaster recovery.
That is the word from Clive Lunn, manager responsible for the financial services sector at Business Continuity Solutions at MGX. Lunn says that many companies are still using an approach to business continuity that was a good fit for the data centres of the mainframe era, but which is poorly suited to the needs of organisations where staff are dependent on their PCs, Internet connections and telephones to do business.
"The data centre used to be a secure and isolated environment, and computers were mainly used for back-office functions such as number crunching. It was unlikely that a company would lose its data centre and primary working environment at the same time. Providing a back-up plan for computer hardware was an adequate business continuity strategy.
"Now, staff need access to online information, workflow systems and front-office applications to do their work - particularly in environments such as brokerages and contact centres. Computers have moved out of the data centre and into every department, indeed onto every desk.
"In addition, the loss of a critical component such as a telephone system, either through hardware failure, or cable severance, can damage business as much the loss of a core computing system.
"Consider the impact on your business if your staff were unable to work for a day, a week or even a month, or if your customers could not contact you for the same amount of time."
Lunn continues, "If you are a medical insurer, you may be putting your client's life at risk; if you are a stock broker, you could be causing clients to lose millions of rands. That is apart from the legal and financial risks your business could face."
Defining workplace recovery
Lunn defines workplace recovery as "the act of providing a working environment that will allow selected teams of personnel to relocate from their existing place of work to an alternative place of work in the event of a disaster."
Says Lunn: "When disaster strikes, a company that has not drawn up a business continuity plan that caters for workplace recovery, needs to locate a new building and then enter into a lease under the worst possible negotiating conditions.
"It also needs to source, install, and configure all of the critical components of its working infrastructure. The delivery lead times for even simple office equipment such as furniture and PABXs can be long enough to put a company out of business."
Like disaster recovery, a workplace recovery strategy will allow companies to substitute faulty or damaged data centre hardware and data networks with new systems in the fastest possible time at an alternative location.
However, workplace recovery also requires the provision of specialised facilities such as large PABX systems, call centre switches, voice recording systems and financial information feeds. It also provides an alternative office environment stocked with furniture and productivity tools such as printers, fax machines, photocopiers, shredders, and PC workstations.
Says Lunn: "The concept of workplace recovery is a fundamental risk management issue as described in the King II report on corporate governance. As such, it elevates business continuity from an IT issue to its rightful place as a business issue. In terms of the current draft of the King II report on corporate governance, the responsibility for risk management and therefore business continuity is placed firmly at the door of the audit committee and hence the board of directors. As such, it is imperative that the continuity strategy is driven by the business with buy-in from senior management."
Manager of the financial services sector at MGX