In yesterday's post, Time to Go Beyond the Business Continuity Plan to the Pandemic Plan, I discussed having a pandemic plan, something that every company should have. With employees concerned about being in public places and contracting the swine influenza, many companies are looking at the possibility of telecommuting options for their employees.
Last summer, I was invited to speak at the Maryland Bankers Association about business continuity and pandemic planning. There were many questions on telecommuting. I told a story about one day that previous winter. My children were off from school, I was at home, and I noticed how slow my Internet connection was. I called several friends and they noticed the same thing. It struck me that if there were a regional disaster, companies that were planning to have their employees work from home would have a difficult time of it. While I was at the conference, I had the opportunity to speak to an official with the FDIC. He told me that when he goes into a bank for an examination, he looks to see if the bank plans on using telecommuting as an alternative. If so, he raises the same issue about the Internet and how the bank will deal with it. His recommendation almost always is to pay for dedicated DSL lines for key employees and rented space with a dedicated high-speed connection for the other employees.
However, if this strategy is not tested ahead of time, an organization risks leaving its infrastructure open for penetration. Hackers look for companies at risk. Companies that are doing a lot of laying off, in deep financial difficulty, or have merged recently are examples of companies in turmoil and at risk. In addition, a pandemic is an excellent example of a threat that could put a company at risk.
The second concern is that existing employees gain acess to systems that they would not normally have access to. When support people are moving fast to keep the organization up and running, mistakes are made.
Finally, organizations should look out for an increase in social engineering. It's easier for a hacker to disguise themselves as a telecommuter with a problem when there is a pandemic versus in normal operations.
We will assume that you have the infrastructure in place to handle the increase in remote connections and employees can access the applications they need and some degree of security is in place. Other things to keep in mind that telecommuters will need to deal with are phone service, printing and hard mailing. You can find lots of telecommuting planning documents in the Knowledge Network, as well, including the Telecommuting IT Checklist and the Telecommuting Calculator.
Using telecommuting as part of your pandemic plan is a smart move. A business continuity and pandemic plan are about identifying the business processes that a company needs to keep running to stay in business and telecommuters are part of the process. Security has got to be the number-one concern. My advice is test, test, and test more. You don't want to be in the middle of a disaster and find out that something does not work.
Is your company planning on using telecommuting during a disaster or pandemic? If so, how will your company deal with an Internet slow down?