Work Area Recovery: Evaluating Your Options

A work area recovery plan is one of the most critical pieces of any recovery plan. After all, if your workforce has no place to work, how can you recover? 

Your work area recovery site is a place that your organization can relocate to after a disruptive event. Events that require a backup site can include a terrorist threat, fire, flood, or other natural and man-made disaster events. Your work area recovery site is an essential part of your disaster recovery plan and is integral to your business continuity planning.

Before you measure each option, it’s important to determine the basic needs for your alternate work site. Your next step is to establish your priorities so that you make your selection based on what’s important to your individual organization. Let’s go over your criteria for considering a backup site:

Budget

It’s common knowledge that a disaster situation can cause strain on financial resources, so it’s critical to keep costs limited. Budget is often your first thought when selecting a temporary work site, and a cost-benefit analysis is standard practice.

Location

Proximity to your current office is critical. A backup location that requires significant travel can cause more disruption or cost as you may need to provide transportation. It’s important to weigh location against cost and amenities when making a decision.

Employee comfort

Your staff is your most critical asset. So, it’s imperative to be mindful of their needs during a crisis. Consider that uprooting employees during a crisis may cause further trauma; you want to protect your work environment as much as possible. Keep working conditions and morale high with amenities and facilities like comfortable restrooms, kitchens and break areas.

Timing

You might find an ideal location, but the setup would take too long. Or, you may come across a recovery option that seems like a simple move and comes at the right price, but it isn’t suitable for use for the length of time you’ll need it. Timing conflicts are often a “deal-breaker” as resuming normal business operations is a priority, and making another move isn’t ideal.

When evaluating your options, keep in mind that the purpose of your temporary work site is to keep your people comfortable and close to home so that your recovery process is smooth and well-timed. Now that we’ve gone over what to consider while you evaluate options, let’s review your actual work area recovery options.

Work Area Recovery Site Options

A Cold Site

A cold site is a location that is essentially a blank slate. It may have floors and a roof and data lines, but little else. This means it would require equipment, connectivity, and your organization’s data to get it up and running. Cold sites are often the least expensive recovery option but can mean an enormous cost when you do use them. Keep the cost of setup and equipment in mind before you select this office relocation option.

Warm Site

A warm site is a work site that has some of the required equipment but also comes with some advance preparation. That preparation may take hours or a few shorts days. An example of a warm site is using a different company site that has security, phone connections, and an active network available for immediate use, but does not have data backups on site. This is most often the simplest solution if there is a location available, but may mean trading immediacy or comfort.

Contracted Hot Site

A contracted hot site essentially duplicates the full functionality of the organization. Features often include full computer setups, system access, and recent backups of all systems. While a contracted hot site is convenient and can be ready in hours, it is likely the most expensive option. Organizations that require real-time availability such as utility companies, financial institutions, and government agencies use hot sites. These organizations work with third party vendors to contract for a set number of available seats and frequency of data syncing.

Mobile Recovery Equipment/Mobile Recovery Centers

Mobile recovery equipment is when the site and equipment come to you. Vendors can arrive on scene within hours with expandable trailers that contain almost everything needed at a disaster site. These mobile recovery centers include their own generators, telephone lines, and satellite uplinks for communications. These are ideal for organizations when workplace relocation is not an option or when you must maintain a local presence.

Find a Location at the Time of the Incident

Some companies believe that local real estate availability allows for last-minute location planning. One issue with this approach is that it leaves you scrambling during a disaster situation when there is already so much to do. It also ignores the fact that there is more to a location than four walls. Another vulnerability is that it leaves you without a test site. This leaves your plan without validation and your team members without adequate training. Lastly, this approach underestimates the time required to settle real estate deals. If your business depends on a quick process, you don’t want to leave your operation idle.

No one wants to think about what would happen if a disaster displaced your business. Preparing for the worst is never fun. It is, however, a critical step that displays a commitment to your clients and customers, the company, and above all, to your employees. We recommend this level of preparedness to keep your business competitive and to protect your brand.

What happens after you’ve selected a relocation option?

Read more about Alternate Work Site Relocation Planning.

Michael Herrera is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MHA. In his role, Michael provides global leadership to the entire set of industry practices and horizontal capabilities within MHA. Under his leadership, MHA has become a leading provider of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery services to organizations on a global level. He is also the founder of BCMMETRICS, a leading cloud based tool designed to assess business continuity compliance and residual risk. Michael is a well-known and sought after speaker on Business Continuity issues at local and national contingency planner chapter meetings and conferences. Prior to founding MHA, he was a Regional VP for Bank of America, where he was responsible for Business Continuity across the southwest region.


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