September 11: E-mail and remote access are
by Mike Simons, © 2002 ComputerWeekly.com Ltd.
All rights reserved
Businesses can get up and running quickly using just a few key applications.
But no technology or planning can replace lost staff.
Monday, 11th March 2002 - Looking back on the battle to maintain operations
at Merrill Lynch, Marvin Balliet, chief financial officer of the bank's technology
group highlighted the e-mail as an unexpected mission critical application.
"In all our plans no one focused on e-mail as
being mission critical. Yet that was the first thing our traders were screaming
about, even before they were trading," he admitted.
DK Matai, chief executive of security consultant mi2g, noted that many other
organisations missed this key point in their planning. "It
was disconcerting to note that despite having disaster recovery procedures
within financial services, 11 September put some reputable banks' global e-mail
systems out-of-service for more than two weeks,"Matai told
CW360.com."Many disaster recovery procedures are
not up-to-date in defining criticality around e-business issues such as e-mail,
intranets and extranets," he said.
Along with e-mail, remote access appears to have found a place in companies'
disaster recovery plans. Until 11 September most organisations
"considered remote access to be an alternate
work style, as opposed to a measure that could be used in an emergency,"
said John Girard, an analyst with Gartner Group.
Organisations may want to investigate the establishment of remote centres
to work from in an emergency, Gartner advised.
"Companies need to make sure they understand
what capabilities they have from a remote access [perspective] and to incorporate
that knowledge into their disaster plans," said Girard.
However this could lead to massive changes in the way the business operates
Ovum warned. "Distributing the risk without revolutionising
the company culture is a delicate balancing act," commented
Ovum analyst Paola Bassanese.
One of the main observations from 11 September was the sheer loss of life
- and its effect on businesses. As Bassanese explained:"No
business continuity service can fill the gap left by the loss of staff."
Keeping emergency data on staff is critical. Giga Information Group analyst
Paul Hamerman said:"The extraordinary tragedy
of 11 September brought to light the need for rapid employee communications
and tracking." Most companies have not made sufficient use
of their human resources management systems for tracking contact information
on employees and their families for emergency use. Even where systems are
in use, "the real challenge is the cultural discipline
and procedures to maintain the information accurately," warned
The loss of the World Trade Centre towers also revealed that many organisations
still relied on paper based records for vital staff records, including benefits
and beneficiary information.