SMB - IT execs take different paths on bird flu threat


Gartner has issued several advisories about a possible pandemic, urging IT shops to prepare for the need to upgrade broadband and virtual private network connections to the homes of key workers and beef up their online ordering capabilities for customers.

In a 31-page report issued March 7, the consulting firm listed in stark detail three scenarios for a global spread of the avian flu or another virus, from mild to severe. In the most severe scenario, several million people would die and the pandemic could last for a year or longer, despite strict quarantines. Many businesses would cease to operate, travel would be restricted, and workplace communications would often be done via phone, videoconferencing or e-mail.

But Gartner analyst Ken McGee this week rated overall corporate preparation levels at only a 2 or 3 on a scale from 1 to 10. 'Maybe pandemic planning isn't the most important thing facing a company, but it should be in the top two,' McGee said, suggesting that tight IT budgets might be keeping some companies from moving more quickly to prepare.

The biggest mistake companies make is assuming that their existing continuity plans will work in the event of a pandemic, McGee said.

'Unlike earthquakes and hurricanes and bombs, which are geographically confined, a pandemic is not,' he said. 'At Gartner, we can't comprehend what IT is thinking on this, because a pandemic is the gift that keeps on giving.'

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