Wheres the Return

By Larry Dignan  |  Posted 2006-05-04 Print this article Print

?"> Wheres the Return? Tabb said the biggest reason companies are quiet about their planning is that they are just getting started. In addition, its hard to generate a return for something that may never happen. Given the uncertainty, Tabb said executives need technologies that will deliver a return even if a pandemic doesnt occur. "The main thing to determine is what you have lying around today that can be reused in the case of a pandemic," said Tabb. "Being pragmatic is important if you are going to have your staff working from home."
Avian flu could cripple businesses. Click here for four steps technology execs should take now to prepare.
The lack of a short-term return on bird flu planning means many companies are viewing a pandemic scenario as an extension to current business continuity plans. "We have our hurricane playbook as far as contingency planning goes, and wed probably amend that for bird flu," said George Chizmar, vice president of IT at Apple Vacations. Colesante said VeriCenters plan is to make sure its most valuable technology tools are ready in case bird flu breaks out. Fieglein advised that companies schedule work-at-home days to test infrastructure. Among the technology tools that will be necessary in a pandemic:
  • VPN: "The VPN is the most important technology to create a redundant tunnel so workers can tunnel from various locations securely," said Colesante. The challenge: It has to be tested so it can handle a crush of at-home workers, he said.
  • Desktop support: Some workers will use their home PCs. Companies will need to keep desktop applications standardized and maintain security. The challenge: Security could be an issue. "Its easy to say employees will work from their house, but less secure if they dont have the same level of software protection they have at work," Colesante said.
  • Identity management: Steve Ross, global leader of Deloittes business continuity management practice, said a pandemic would force companies to cross-train workers on technologies. Perhaps an auditor has to fill in to manage a database. The challenge: A company will need technologies to track and provision worker roles and access permissions quickly, most likely from afar.
  • Citrix MetaFrame: One way around standardizing applications would be to allow workers to tunnel into applications through software from Citrix, Tabb said. The challenge: Bandwidth constraints could hamper performance.
  • Thin clients: Fieglein said Wyse has discussed streaming software that would deliver applications remotely to PCs. Deutsche Bank is already a Wyse hardware customer. The challenge: Companies would need to build the centralized architecture to support thin-client use in the home.
Ross said those technologies only go so far because some productivity will be lost. "People are used to working together, and if you separate them, it may not go as well," he said. "Teleworking is a major issue, and there are problems with social distance." Next Page: Wild card: cable and DSL access.

Business Editor
Larry formerly served as the East Coast news editor and Finance Editor at CNET News.com. Prior to that, he was editor of Ziff Davis Inter@ctive Investor, which was, according to Barron's, a Top-10 financial site in the late 1990s. Larry has covered the technology and financial services industry since 1995, publishing articles in WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, The New York Times, and Financial Planning magazine. He's a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

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