09/23/2013 | by
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Extreme “weather events” are getting more severe around the nation, and so is the devastation they wreak. Add to these natural disasters the scope of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and we see that although businesses cannot control these events, there is a keen need to plan for them in order to mitigate operational losses during emergencies and beyond.

These events have been an alarming wake-up call to REITs about the vulnerability of our physical and technical infrastructures and tenants’ needs for data recovery.

But besides the obvious physical damage to properties and their contents, extended power outages as we saw with Hurricane Sandy disrupted real estate deals and transactions, and put organizations at an operational standstill.

As the storm revealed, the loss of physical office space is challenging but the lack of a business continuity plan (BCP) can be crippling.

Today’s real estate companies must adapt long-term solutions to meet their clients’ needs for business continuity following disasters. A modern BCP can release users from physical real estate when locations or public infrastructure are down, and allow business to continue by enabling remote operations through technology (both distant and local). Consider these solutions in your company’s BCP:

Private clouds. Most companies cannot afford to implement and maintain the infrastructure needed for their own data network, server, and storage platform. A growing alternative is private clouds that offer customizable space on a  distributed infrastructure that is reliable, fast, secure, and flexible. A private cloud safeguards a company’s system from on-site mishaps and network failures. All computing, memory, and disk performance is dedicated to each distinct organization. Private clouds are more cost-effective, offer superior compliance, and provide access to business files and data from anywhere at any time, on any device, for both internal and external users.

Generators. Home generators enable telecommuting when power is out, travel is not possible, or the office is not available. If possible, consider on-site natural gas or diesel generators with auto transfer switches  to keep offices, warehouses, and other properties powered and open for business.

Mobile communications. Phone trees, group texts, automated phone messaging, and email blasts keep stakeholders in the loop during critical times on their mobile devices.

Wi-Fi hotspots. Identify and catalog, in advance, Wi-Fi-enabled spots near the office or employees’ homes to foster productivity. “Wired” internet cafes, coffee shops, and public spaces are plentiful in most areas. Encourage users to employ wireless hotspot capabilities on their smartphones as well for ultimate flexibility.

Cellular-capable tablets. Cellular capability on tablets frees users from searching for a Wi-Fi connection since the devices will work anywhere a cell phone does. Cellular connections for tablets grew nearly 50 percent in the first quarter of 2013, and investments in cellular-connected tablets have soared over the past year as technology and mobile adoption evolve. Private clouds accessed on these tablets are becoming the new intranet.

Portable power. Power for Smartphones, tablets and cameras are critical during times of outages. Portable power packs and recharging systems for these devices will keep you running even when the power is out. These portable power sources are even built into briefcases and back packs, such as The Powerbag, which will recharge smartphones four times and can power up to four portable devices simultaneously.

Backup Internet. Investing in a secondary Internet line provides additional insurance for business continuity.

Whether dealing with short- or long-term outages, real estate companies simply cannot afford the down time. Creating a technology-related BCP provides assurance now that operations will not be disrupted later during a natural (or other) disaster.

Ian Marlow is founder and managing partner of FiTech Consultants, a technology consulting firm serving the real estate industry. Contact him at imarlow@fitechllc.com.