For the most part, you can rely on a purpose-built data centre to be an exceptionally secure, resilient and well-connected building. It’ll be designed to withstand minor power outages, network failures, fires, floods and attempted break-ins – often to a much greater degree than your average office or other commercial building.
As such, it’s not really a surprise that a handful of data centre providers use their premises for more than just rack space and hosting, and offer a workplace recovery service under the same roof. This means customers have the option of moving their workers into backup office space on-site if something ever happens to their own office space, such as a fire or an extended network failure.
Of course, it also means an additional monthly fee. And that begs the question: do you need a workplace recovery service to survive as a business?
The rise of the work-from-home business continuity plan
Obviously, we’d never suggest dismissing workplace recovery on the basis that you’ve decided not to bother with a business continuity plan in the first place, because that would be a terrible mistake.
It’s commonly claimed that as many as 80% of firms fail to reopen after a major incident, and, while it’s difficult to verify this figure, the direct and indirect costs of downtime to your business should be readily apparent – loss of productivity, loss of data, reputational damage and customer churn, and so on.
The truth is, however, that we no longer live in an age where our ability to work is tied up with the traditional office environment, and many firms are – quite sensibly – starting to adapt their business continuity plans in response. Specifically, we’ve seen the rise of the work-from-home business continuity plan, where firms make the most of their cloud apps and BYOD policies to recommend that workers stay put if there’s ever a problem in the office, and carry out their duties remotely rather than move to a backup location.
A lot of the time, this is a logical and cost-effective option. In other cases, there can be both foreseeable and unforeseeable risks attached.
Why workplace recovery is still necessary
Firstly, it’s important to recognise that work-from-home business continuity simply isn’t possible for every business. Consider the following direct barriers, for example:
- Access to resources: even as adoption of cloud hosting services grows, many firms still can’t provide carte-blanche access to their software and resources from any device and any location.
- Compliance: in many cases, this is as much to do with policy and regulatory compliance as with technology – it may not be deemed acceptable to transfer data over a public internet connection, for example.
- Some activities may not be possible to carry out remotely: printing, posting, filing, project and department meetings, maintaining phone communications, and so on.
Secondly, there are plenty of less obvious problems that arise when a lot of workers are suddenly required to carry out their duties remotely. They include:
- Communication: even when they have basic homeworking policies in place, many firms are heavily reliant on internal phone links and verbal communication.
- Connectivity: a work-from-home business continuity plan relies on the stability of home internet connections and phones, which aren’t guaranteed in the same way as a workplace recovery service would be.
- Productivity: some teams may not be effective at their job without management support, and this can become even more pronounced in a crisis situation.
Choosing the right solution for your business
So should your business reject the idea of homeworking in favour of a workplace recovery service? Well, no – none of the reasons above are compelling enough for that to be sensible in 100% of cases, and we’d never suggest that customers using our data centre ought to reserve a workplace recovery desk for every single one of their workers. Most of the time, it’s only necessary to move a few core teams into a backup office space, and implement another plan for the rest.
As for where you draw the line, this should be informed by the nature of the incident itself, as well as the outcomes of the risk and business impact assessments you undertook at the outset of your business continuity plan. And, if there’s any uncertainty at all as to how and when you’ll use your workplace recovery service, your data centre provider should be able to advise.