"As compared to the days when employees only had desktops and laptops, the ability to remain productive without access to a computer via tablets and smartphones is a significant advantage," she says. "Additionally, it means that employees should be easier to communicate with during a disaster."
Business continuity planning software vendors are putting more emphasis on ensuring that the software and information needed for business continuity can be accessible via mobile devices, Morency says. This includes information such as the current status of recovery, the locations to which employees should be going, what applications and services they can access and where they connect to get the latest emergency updates.
"This is not only for telecommuters but for the workforce in general and the mobile sales folks who need ways to access the information that is most relevant to them, and be able to access this through the device of their choice," Morency says.
Enterprises "cannot depend on corporate headquarters or the data center always being available following a disruptive event," Morency says. "They have to ensure that critical plan content is always available [including to mobile users] regardless of what happened."
Many Imperial Sugar employees use smartphones, tablets and other devices for work, Muller says, and these devices would likely prove useful from a business continuity perspective because workers would be able to use them to conduct business transactions and communicate with co-workers and customers from multiple remote locations.
The key issue is ensuring that these devices continue to have access to the software and services that allow them to function optimally for applications such as messaging and collaboration. "If I've got a Blackberry Enterprise Server I just need to make sure that it's something I can bring up at a remote business continuity or disaster recovery site" if needed, Muller says.
The proliferation of mobile devices makes it easier for people to stay connected, "and certainly makes it easier to connect in a business recovery situation," Muller says. "A wireless PC can do the same thing, but a mobile device is smaller and easier to carry around and it costs less. You can do just about anything on a mobile device that you can do on a PC."
A Forrester report published in July 2011, entitled "It's Time to Include Social Technology in Your Crisis Communication Strategy," notes that while many risk professionals subscribe to automated communication services for reliable mass notification, "the widespread adoption of mobile devices and easy Internet access support the case for using social technologies like Twitter, Facebook, and Skype as critical components of your response plan."
As companies look for rapid, effective communication approaches with key stakeholders in crisis communications, they should strongly consider leveraging social technologies, the report says.
Another report, "The Do's and Don'ts of Using Social Media in Business Continuity Management," released by Gartner in January 2012, notes that social media "holds the promise of transforming enterprise business continuity management, especially crisis/incident management and communications practices."