Kevin Desouza, an assistant professor at the University of Washington's Information School in Seattle, said he knows of 'only a very few companies' that have put systematic plans in place for monitoring whether a crisis is coming and for responding before a pandemic hits. 'The chief complaint of CIOs is that they walk a fine line between saying, 'The sky is falling' and educating people [about] the inherent risks associated with a pandemic crisis,' he said.
Small and midsize businesses in particular are 'way down the list' in terms of preparedness, Desouza said.
Some IT managers said they're working to adapt their companies' business continuity plans to a potentially widespread and long-duration pandemic.
'In a pandemic, people would have to stay at home to prevent the spread of whatever the virus is, so we need to find ways to [support] that,' said Ellen Barry, CIO at the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority in Chicago and president of that city's local SIM chapter.
For example, to limit the amount of data traffic that moves across network pipes, Barry is considering putting the bulk of the authority's applications on centralized servers, following the concept behind WAN optimization products from vendors such as Citrix Systems Inc.