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by Dave Gradijan

New IBM Service Readies Businesses for Flu Outbreak

Jun 06, 20062 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Your business may be prepared for a fire or an earthquake, but what happens if 40 percent of the company is out for weeks, sick with the flu?

With health officials in the United States now spending US$3.8 billion in preparation for a possible avian flu pandemic, IBM sees an opportunity for its Global Services Group to help businesses prepare for the worst. The company is offering a new service, called Contingency Planning Assessment, designed to help businesses keep operations up and running in the event of a virus outbreak.

Corporations may already have contingency plans in place to help them survive some kinds of natural disasters, but planning for a pandemic is not commonly done, said Richard Cocchiara, an IBM distinguished engineer who helped design the service.

“Customers are not going to be able to take the normal disaster recovery plans they’ve got and really apply them to a pandemic without some significant modifications,” Cocchiara said. “You’re dealing with a much more widely spread event. Most disaster plans assume that the majority of staff is able to move to a new location and bring operations up and running.”

IBM first ventured into this area as it planned its response to the SARS outbreak in 2003, but the company began developing the service offering in earnest several months ago, around the time that the World Health Organization began tracking the spread of the avian influenza virus outside of countries in East Asia.

In assessments priced from around US$10,000 for a small business, IBM’s services group will take a close look at how a pandemic might hit a company’s operations. IBM will then help draw up a contingency plan that takes into account things such as the effects on the supply chain, working with government, and communicating with employees who may be away from work for weeks at a time or unable to commute.

IBM began offering the Contingency Planning Assessment services to customers over the past few weeks, Cocchiara said. “This has really opened their eyes,” he said. “They say, ‘I can have my buildings intact, my data centers intact, but I have lost the human capital. This isn’t something I planned for.’ “

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By Robert McMillan, IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)