Extreme Mobility: How Businesses Are Getting Through the Storm

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As New York and the Eastern Seaboard begin the recovery process after Superstorm Sandy, businesses in the region are getting back to work — and probably more aware than ever about how reliant they are on mobile technology. Over the last few days, companies that were able to keep the doors open have gotten by with a truly mobile workforce.

The ability to work remotely — and act on a business continuity plan — proved crucial for companies like Ernst & Young and General Electric, which were able to keep running thanks to existing work-from-home infrastructures. Digital firms like BuzzFeed and Fab.com set up pop-up offices, while big banks like Goldman Sachs and Citibank shifted their operations to offices not affected by the storm. UBS booked hotels for staff to ensure a power supply.

In most cases, businesses were being powered by a gaggle of iPhones, laptops, and Wi-Fi cards, operating out of living rooms and local coffee shops. And thanks to the rise in cloud-based data storage, mobile access to company Intranet, and a host of virtual communication tools (from instant messaging to Facebook and Twitter), many such companies say they hardly missed a beat.

But mobile-only work hasn’t been all smooth sailing: A quarter of all cellular and broadband cable and Internet service went out across the 10 states effected by Sandy. And with over 8 million homes and businesses losing power, the problem deepens (though the lack of power has led to some creative ways of recharging). Then there are companies like Gawker and Huffington Post who were shut down entirely because their servers got flooded.

Still, for one BusinessWeek journalist who conducted a day’s work on an iPhone, Superstorm Sandy proved to be a ringing endorsement for enterprise mobility. It may, in fact, convince more companies to embrace a more mixed approach to telecommuting. What will be interesting to see is how user habits and data may have changed during the storm. How were employees using their devices when solely limited to them? What did they need — and not?

As Foot Locker CEO Ken Hicks, who lost power, summed it up for the Wall Street Journal: ”You can be reasonably self-sufficient with a cellphone and a lantern.”

More: How to Safeguard Your Mobile Devices Against Security Breaches and Outages.

Image from Flickr via TPM.

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