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Business Continuity in Severe Weather

Lucas Messina

2 min read

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Whether it’s a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey or interruptions to transportation, events that keep you from the office are bound to happen. It’s important for IT to make the proper preparations to keep everyone safe and productive while working from home.

Business continuity and disaster recovery technology (BC/DR) has made it possible for firms to continue working with minimal loss of time and data during and following unexpected events. Kraft Kennedy has helped many clients put together BC/DR plans. Here are some quick pointers for IT administrators and end-users:

IT Administrators:

  • Make sure remote access is working properly. Firms that use Citrix XenApp/Desktop or Microsoft Remote Desktop solutions extensively on a daily basis won’t need to worry about this. However,  many firms that rely on them every once in a while by the occasional remote user. Those are the firms that need to make sure that everything is working properly and the systems are patched, up-to-date, and ready to support an influx.
  • Know your limits. Many remote access solutions have limits on concurrent licensing. Don’t tell 100 users that they can all go home and work from Citrix if you only have 20 concurrent licenses. In the short term, you’ll have to deal with the licensing limitations, but for the long term, you should purchase licenses for however many people you want to connect.
  • Ensure the systems are physically capable of supporting the extra load. Just because you have 100 licenses to support 100 concurrent users doesn’t mean that your single XenApp server with limited RAM will be able to handle it. Some quick things that can be done include adding extra memory to virtual Citrix servers or increasing the number of total virtual desktops if a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) system is used.
  • Probably the most important thing  is to make sure users are properly prepared. You can have the most robust and redundant remote access system, but if nobody knows how to connect to it, it is not very useful. The below list can serve to give you some ideas on what to communicate to your users.

End Users:

  • Listen to your IT staff. I know from experience that many end-users ignore communications from IT. As an IT person, I’ve asked the question countless times, “Did you read the email I sent about this?” to find that the answer is “no.”
  • If you have a laptop, bring it home with you..and the power cord.
  • Some telephone systems support making and receiving phone calls through your computer. If this is available to you, make sure you have a headset and know how to use it.
  • Make sure you know how to access your system remotely before you need to use it. The time to ask IT staff for help connecting remotely is before an emergency, not during.
  • If possible, have a physical printout of contact info for all staff, or at least critical contacts like IT and management.
  • Many IT systems will have backup systems that will go into action should the main systems go down. If there is something you need to do differently to access the backup systems (like go to a different web site), you should know what that web site is in advance.

While it may be a little late to implement some of these ideas for Hurricane Irma, many of them can be put in place or communicated with little cost or effort. A little communication and preparation can help remote users stay connected.