What happens when disaster strikes, and your primary office space becomes unavailable? Does your business continuity plan include backup seating or workspace for key employees? The spread of the COVID-19 virus has driven masses of office employees to work from home. But for many workers, that isn’t always feasible, particularly for employees who handle sensitive data or follow stringent government security requirements. Your business continuity plan needs to include backup workspace for these employees.

A business continuity plan is a roadmap for ensuring that your company can keep operating even if your primary equipment and office space are unavailable. Having a solid business continuity plan is vital during any type of disaster. Some elements of a business continuity plan include policies for data backup and failover to ensure quick access to data and applications, lists of emergency contacts to call during and after a disaster, instructions for communicating with customers and employees, and any key legal requirements that must be met by your plan. It should also account for workspace to accommodate vital staff that can’t work remotely. This basic need isn’t always given the consideration it deserves. Some organizations assume that their employees will retreat to laptops and home offices, but it's not always a realistic strategy.

What is business continuity workspace?

Business continuity workspace is off-site seating or suites used when access to your primary workspace is unavailable. For example, you may have seating in a third-party provider’s data center.

While many employees can work productively from a home office or a laptop on the kitchen table, others can’t. Employees that deal with confidential or regulated data may need stringent security protections not available at home. In the case of a natural disaster, like a flood or hurricane, their houses may be damaged. Or, in the case of the coronavirus pandemic, their homes may be too crowded and noisy for work.

Business continuity workspace considerations

Business continuity workspace outside of the primary office should be within a reasonable commute and close to public transportation. Look at whether there is affordable parking options and lunch spots nearby, or at least a kitchenette in the building. The more convenient the space, the happier the employees.

Another important consideration is how quickly the workspace can be available. Regularly communicating with the workspace provider is key to ensuring your backup workspace solution will be available when you need it. This includes annual testing and making sure the desktops have the imaging you will need. This kind of solution takes preparation.

Resilience—the likelihood the facility will withstand a disaster—and security are also key concerns when looking for business continuity workspace. If tornadoes are common to your region, your business continuity workspace should be rated to withstand them.

There are some firms who lease backup space, but data center providers also offer business continuity workspace for their customers. That might include your existing data center provider. Using your own data center provider is not only convenient as the IT systems and workspace are managed by the same provider, but there might be some additional benefits due to your previous standing relationship.

Business continuity workspace in a provider’s data center

Fortunately, data center providers – good ones – will almost always have resilient, disaster-rated infrastructure and robust security for both the building and IT systems.  

Resilience

A data center is normally designed to withstand disasters common to its area. It’s also equipped with redundant equipment to ensure that if one network connection or power source fails, another one can take over. This includes utility transformers, multiple power distribution units (PDUs), and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), multiple power feeds from two or more electrical substations, and redundant cooling units. Look for carrier neutral facilities with many network carrier connections. These are more stable and fault tolerant. Ask how long of a power outage the facility can survive, what disasters it's rated for, and the type of fire suppression equipment it has.

Also read: How Colocation Can Save You from Disaster

Security

Your business continuity workspace needs to be secured against theft, vandalism, and other criminal activity. Data center facilities will have a variety of security measures to protect the building as well as strong network security such as DDoS protection, firewall, and intrusion detection. Some providers offer managed IT security services for customer applications and data. Services that these managed security services provider (MSSP) may offer include encryption, managed web gateways, 24-hour monitoring, and incident response.

Building security should include video monitoring of all entrances, with key, keycard or biometric scan required for access, as well as on-site security staff. To ensure employee safety, look at interior and exterior lighting, especially outdoor lighting for entrances and parking lots.

Also read: 8 Must-Have Physical Data Center Security Features

Backup workspace and business continuity planning go hand in hand

Business continuity workspace is a key element of your disaster recovery and business continuity plan. Because not all employees can, or should, work from home, you need to have business continuity workspace ready to ensure that your business can continue operations within a day or two of a major disaster.

There are many companies that provide temporary offices and workspace, but your disaster recovery or colocation provider is often the best bet.  A data center provider will be able to ensure optimum security, IT resilience, and the convenience of having your IT systems and workspace managed by the same company, often at the same location. At TierPoint, we provide short-term business continuity workspace services. Contact us to learn more about how it works and pricing.

Read more about our solution in our business continuity workspace fact sheet.

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