Real estate firm sees decentralized enterprises post 9/11

A corporate real estate company says large businesses are moving away from a centralized facilities model in response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

According to Toronto-based Real Facilities Inc., companies

and government are opting to disperse their employees and locations to try and minimize the potential damage of a single — natural or otherwise — event.

“”It becomes particularly important for organizations that have a fiduciary duty to provide continuous data or contact with their clients,”” says Tony Gill, senior director of corporate services. Gill cites banks, insurance companies and government as examples.

“”I’m not suggesting that people who are in the bank towers downtown (Toronto) are all going to move away, but there are critical departments within there that now have to look more closely at creating alternate backup strategies.””

Gill says some businesses affected by the attacks in New York have already adopted the new model. Deutsche Bank, he says, had 1.6 million sq. ft. prior to the attack in two locations. It is now moving to 12 locations. Lehman Brothers had two locations and has moved into five.””

“”We’ve seen a specific instance with the tax department coming out of downtown Toronto,”” adds Real Facilities president Stan Krawitz, “”and relocating to Sudbury.””

Gill says improvements in connectivity, real-time backup technology and collaboration software have made these moves possible.

Ralph Dunham, manager business continuity and recovery services, IBM Global Services, says companies are caught between a rock and a hard place when confronted with this decision.

“”It’s tough one because you really want to consolidate to save money,”” he says, “”and at the same time you want to spread out for safety.””

Dunham says the big lesson for business from Sept. 11 isn’t to spread out your personnel but to ensure the link between users and information isn’t cut. Whether the information resides in someone’s head or on a hard drive is irrelevant.

To cope with this demand a great deal of time and money is being invested in networks.

“”Networking is where a lot of the effort is being placed right now in building these connections and networks that provide enough redundancy, enough duplication that they can continue to be connected no matter what happens to any single point, which includes the employees themselves,”” Dunham says.

When trouble-shooting these networks, Duham is looking for single points of failure. When one is identified, he says, the user has one of three choices: accept it and live with it; mitigate it by putting in alternate measures; or outsource the risk to somebody else.

“”You have to address that risk and by focusing on what is critical, identifying those critical processes and within them what are the single points of failure,”” Dunham says. “”Then you can design a resiliency that allows you not to be exposed to a single point affecting you.””

Dunham also recommends creating a work-from-home contingency plan.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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