One of the best kept disaster recovery and business continuity secrets in the industry is not even on companies' radar: that's the failure to push teleworking for staff as an ideal fallback measure.
One problem is that most teleworking arrangements operate under informal agreements between employers and employees.
However, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) plans to investigate the use of teleworking as a contingency plan as part of its disaster recovery policy.
QUT's senior lecturer in information systems, Dr Neville Meyers, said the university will be looking at the necessary infrastructure required to ensure campus access for staff and students in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
Meyers, who last year was one of the expert presenters for the Senate Advisory Committee on Telework (The Australian Telework Advisory Committee), said the only reason companies are not using such a plan is lack of awareness. But he believes all organizations should make it part of their contingency plans, because teleworking is a powerful and innovative business continuity tool.
Many managers do not think about business continuity until a disaster has occurred, Meyers said, and anecdotal evidence suggests Australian organizations are ill-prepared and ill-equipped.
Kaz Group business continuity and governance practice manager, Peter Voysey, said disaster recovery planning isn't rocket science.
Voysey said managers need to get a handle on their teleworking capabilities, then select an appropriate 'mix' of tasks, technologies and people that will be needed to ensure essential operations are maintained.
"Do some strategic thinking, because teleworking is an ideal business continuity method," he said.
Kaz is currently looking into developing telework arrangements for staff in the event of a global pandemic, such as avian influenza.
"The main problem with using teleworking as business continuity or disaster recovery plan is that people may not have access to corporate servers and need a VPN (virtual private network), which is perhaps a bit more expensive to deploy." He is researching how the cost of setting up secure infrastructure compares to buying a subscription to business continuity services in a recovery centre, Voysey said.
Kevin Nevrous, Deloitte enterprise risk services partner, said teleworking could fit as a recovery strategy, but warned its suitability could vary depending on the type of business.
He said organizations would have to deal with issues such as virtual private networks, existing telephony infrastructure and the teleworkers' access to broadband.
"In some disaster recovery or business continuity plans, not all organizations have considered communication requirements or a secondary pipe just in case the main telecommunications pipe fell over," Nevrous said. Companies exploring the teleworking route need to determine whether they have sufficient capacity to cope and whether the telephony gateway is big enough to handle the load, he said.