What you need to know about avian flu and IT

What you need to know about avian flu and IT

Summary: It's avian flu season and that means you're going to hear a lot about how the Internet will collapse, how a pandemic may be emerging and how businesses will struggle. What's needed is a heavy dose of perspective.

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TOPICS: Health
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It's avian flu season and that means you're going to hear a lot about how the Internet will collapse, how a pandemic may be emerging and how businesses will struggle.

What's needed is a heavy dose of perspective. For instance, the World Health Organization has reported 9 avian flu cases and 8 deaths in 2007 through Feb. 6. Now it's early--the tally will escalate through at least May--but there's no reason to panic.

So what does the IT manager really need to know about the avian flu? Last year, I did a story on the avian flu implications and examined the key issues. This year it's ComputerWorld's turn. You could do a search and probably find a spike of avian flu articles bunched every year about this time. Here's a look at what you need to know in case a pandemic should emerge:

--Your VPN will be your most valuable IT asset. If the avian flu ever turns into a pandemic most of your employees will work from home--most likely under orders of the federal and state governments. Have you tested your VPN for extremely heavy loads? Is it stable? Are folks trained on working from home? The main point is the load. Your VPN may be fine for the 100 people working from home at your company. If that home worker tally turns to 5,000 it may be a different story. Test the capabilities of your VPN.

--Training and support matters. If all your employees work from home they will be their own IT support. Are workers knowledgeable about the basics? In addition, employees may also be working from home with their own equipment. Are key applications standardized? Can you support them remotely?

--Avian flu should be part of business continuity plans. A pandemic would be unique on the health front. For IT planning, the avian flu is just an extension of your business continuity plan.

--Security will be crucial. Managing identities will be increasingly important as employees may have to play dual roles. Can your company accommodate the business analyst that suddenly needs to get access to a database? Do workers on home computers have the same security software as the enterprise?

--No matter how much you plan you'll rely on broadband access providers. The big bottleneck will be the Comcasts and Verizons of the world. If bandwidth needs escalate as the world works from home broadband providers may prioritize traffic. In other words, your PowerPoint presentation may not be as important to them as it is to you. Key employees may need multiple ways to connect.

The last point about broadband access is controversial. Some folks don't buy the doomsday scenario. And they could be right. If you cut off music and movie downloads there's more than enough room for VPNs. There's also a consultant cottage industry surrounding avian flu fueling many of these concerns. The rub with all of this broadband access prognostication is that we have no idea whether avian flu will cripple the Internet--until (if?) it hits.

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Topic: Health

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  • VPNS aren't secure

    No enterprise would exend thier network to thousands of unsecured PC and unknown local networks. That's just insanity! A VPN is like virutal cable that runs to remote location. The communications from point A to point B might be secure but the remote end of the VPN is not. You have no way to know if employee A has wireless network in that appartment building that allows anyone to connect to. Being clever employee A sets up the VPN on the wireless gateway so he use his laptop or desktop PC with ease. Then anyone who can connect to that wireless network has a clear path right into the corporate network. DONT DO THIS!

    If you must have remote access use Citrix and publish the application the remote user needs via the web interface and secure gateway. On top of security here you also use a ton less bandwidth as the work and network traffic is kept on the internal network. The screen you see with citrix takes less bandwidth than running a dataware housing activity from a client app over a VPN.

    Also what company is going to spend the expense to allow thousands of remote connections? Will they spend extra to have an internet pipe big enough to allow that many employee to work from home on the off chance that Bird Flu hits thier local hard? I doubt it, the cost is too much.

    Now if you can make it profitable to say allow employee to work from home right now by implementing a plan like this so that if a pandemic occurs it's business as usual then this soluition would work.
    voska
    • Agree 100%

      Why not use your existing architecture which is already load tested for remote users.
      Been_Done_Before