Business continuity and alternate site location

Business continuity and alternate site decisions involve a number of possible trade-offs. Depending on the budget to be made available or the flexibility possible in recovering operations for different sites, an alternate site policy can differ from one case to another.

Central facilities and strategic manufacturing sites for example may qualify for detailed alternate site planning. On the other hand, branch sales offices may be handled with a summary plan based on best efforts and a deliberate decision to accept a number of days’ outage if necessary. In the first case, production lines need to go on running – somewhere. In the second, sales and support people are supposed to be spending their time with customers anyway, so the impact of doing without their company base should be smaller.

One of the tradeoffs between business continuity and alternate site selection is particularly delicate. It’s the aspect of location. An alternate site solution requiring a significant increase in time or distance to travel for employees can have knock-on effects in the costs of transportation of employees and decreases in productivity. However, simply indicating the nearest alternate site available in the BC plan may not be the best solution either.  The same disaster that hit the first site may have the same effect on neighbouring sites, whether in terms of power, utilities, communications or road access.

Alternatively, unless employees’ homes are also affected in the same way as the company site, another possibility exists. A number of companies, including service organisations like consultancies, have started to dissociate the idea of a permanent site from office worker productivity. They use solutions such as hot-desking: employees use office space and desks as available when they are working on company premises, without having a particular desk permanently attributed to them. If hot-desking isn’t available, teleworking from home is a natural back-up solution. In other words, instead of solving the business continuity and alternate site conundrum, they remove the problem altogether.