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September 2018
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The Public Sector – Avoiding emergencies to help the community

But what if something as simple as the inability to access your own office space strikes at your technology and means of communication?  Where will this leave your staff and those who truly depend on you?

Solid communications are at the heart of the public sector, which not only goes out of its way to help local people in need, but in many cases operates on a national scale with its resources reaching vast areas. This means technology is crucial to ensuring up-to-date information can be shared across regions. The public sector often works across various communities, often in sensitive scenarios, facing the elements or in dangerous and challenging situations.  In this picture real time information is required to circulate continuously to ensure that this passionate sector delivers safely.   Having any form of communications drop out simply isn’t an option for organisations which need to protect their staff operating in difficult scenarios.  Technological provisions must be designed to remain intact and cope with any unforeseen emergencies which could transpire.  

Advanced technology offers an invaluable return on investment for the public sector.  It is a tool to save lives, help the ill, rescue the vulnerable and reach out to isolated members of the community.  IT is the crux of this work being possible, offering an efficient means by which databases can be updated, staff can be organised, and communications flow across geographical locations.

It’s also worth considering how sensitive the data held by public sector organisations is; including personal details about vulnerable individuals, staff home addresses or controversial political scenarios.  This information must be accessible at all times, yet simultaneously protected and secure.

So if unforeseen circumstances strike, causing office amenities and IT systems to be inaccessible, the consequences could be severe. Graeme Gordon, CEO of Internet for Business (IFB) says, “The public sector has a unique operational model.  

“An unplanned event could mean your office is left out-of-bounds, for example if a fire or flood has made the premises unreachable. Extensive damage could result in a great deal of time and money being spent before the organisation’s usual work resumes. Both those working in the public sector and those relying on its services would be left in a critical situation.  Many arms of the public sector operate all year round, and losing one single day could put lives at great risk.

“If staff cannot reach their workstations, then the invaluable work they do each and every day could not happen. It’s critical that those in the public sector have a workplace recovery plan (WPR) in place. This would ensure that all onsite IT systems and data can be safely stored and accessed elsewhere should the worst case scenario happen. Workplace recovery offers tools to ensure disasters don’t mean prolonged interruptions to the working day, meaning it is business as usual.

“Public organisations run like commercial businesses in the sense that IT lies at the basis of how they operate; it is an integral commodity to the whole sector and even more so, a key function within each department.

“Public bodies cannot be seen to waste funds which are funded by the government and the public. This makes it unacceptable for public sector staff to face downtime because their IT systems are down. In the long run thorough IT provisions are essential and necessary.”

So, what should public sector companies look for in a workplace recovery package?  Graeme Gordon offers the following tips:

Speed

Asking a provider for a documented timetable of just how quickly you can move staff to the work place recovery centre. How quickly do they guarantee to acknowledge your request? This should be a guaranteed turn-around time of 30 minutes or less to agree your access time and the numbers of workstations you require.

Within two hours you should be in a guaranteed position to have staff inducted at the workplace recovery centre, be issued with security passes and have a room and desk allocation. Within a four hour time frame, you should have undergone a full handover and have a signed checklist – ready to conduct ‘business as usual’.

Access to Data

A workplace recovery plan providing the desks and hardware required should never exist in isolation. Ideally you will be in a contract with a provider which provides secure off site data storage in their own centre.  This gives immediate and full access to everything required to be backed up and running in this new location.

Add ons?

Check what you are actually paying for. Just what level of internet access will you have? How secure is it? Is it wired or wireless? Can all your telephone calls be diverted to one point and how quickly can this take place? Are you paying just for workstations or does the workplace recovery centre offer meeting space? Will your staff have access to catering facilities? Do you have car parking spaces guaranteed? Are these bolt on costs or part of your agreed package?

Testing

Any form of emergency plan needs to be tested. You should ensure that a provider builds in at least one testing day annually for you and your team – and you should check if you can build in additional testing days if required.

Review and Scalability

Your workplace recovery partner should offer you a regular review of your requirements. In the space of just a couple of years an organisation’s risk exposure can multiply significantly and what may have started out as a modest requirement for a set level of desks can escalate. Without a regular review you can be over exposed at a time of crisis. Check just how scalable your contract is – can you build in additional space if required either on a project or an on-going basis?

 “A dictionary definition of disruption is that it is an act of delaying or interrupting the continuity,” continues Graeme. ”But workplace disruption – whether this is due to environmental factors or simply denial of access to work place buildings, gives rise to massive areas of risk for the public sector. According to a recent IT survey, 74% of firms and public sector organisations in nine European countries said they were ‘not confident’ that they could fully recover their computer systems or data after an IT failure.  Part of this is due to them not being able to provide workspace for staff to ‘get back to business’.

“Managing continuity of the workplace and associated operational risks should be of concern to all businesses regardless of their sector. However, public sector businesses may be at high risk as they have such a reliance on data and uninterrupted communications.

IFB, founded in 1996, is a leading Internet Service Provider (ISP) and provides ICT infrastructure for businesses across the UK.  IFB provides cloud, connectivity, hosting, telecoms, back-up & recovery and work place recovery for our business customers through national, multi-Gbit/s network that links our Aberdeen, Edinburgh and London points of presence.  IFB can be contacted on 0845 270 2101 or geton@ifb.net. More about the company can be found at www.ifb.net

CEO Graeme Gordon has been building and developing IFB for over sixteen years and he’s a Director with Scotland IS- the trade body for the information and communications technologies (ICT) industry, representing around 200 software, telecomms, IT and creative technologies businesses throughout Scotland.

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