July 27, 2011, 11:10 AM — It's been a rough time of late for global business travelers who need to stay in touch.
Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, floods and wildfires have disrupted communications across large geographic regions, while political turmoil -- and government responses to that unrest -- have thrown normal communications routines into disarray.
What's notable is how quickly and unexpectedly events can unfold. One day, a country can be wired and connected. But the next day, cellphone service is out and Internet connections are down. Travelers without a backup plan can be left stranded and scrambling.
It doesn't have to be that way. Well-prepared employees who have been outfitted and updated before heading abroad have a much better chance of staying connected and safe during a disruption, says Jerry Luftman, executive director and distinguished professor at the School of Technology Management at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.
In troubled times like these, IT departments should adopt holistic "we've got you ready to go" policies, rather than leaving traveling workers to figure out ways to stay connected on their own, says Phil Cox, director of security and compliance at SystemExperts Corp., a network security consultancy in Sudbury, Mass.
Security experts agree with Luftman's and Cox's observations. With companies of all sizes doing business in remote or volatile regions of the world these days, the time is right for organizations to develop plans that take into account workers' destinations and what they're likely to encounter there.
But "not enough" employers are doing that, says Greg Bell, principal and global services leader for information protection at business advisory firm KPMG. "There are a larger number of firms today that are thinking through this than there were a few months ago," he says, "but mostly these are larger multinational companies that have learned from what's happened around them."
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"The bigger risk is to the smaller and midsize firms who are starting their global expansion but don't have enough people looking at risk or aren't asking questions at all," says Bell.
Road warriors in tough conditions