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Businesses Prepare For War, Too

A Gartner report outlines ways that companies can protect themselves and their employees.
Even as bombs fall on Baghdad and missiles fly over Kuwait, it's not too late for companies to take action to protect themselves and their employees, analysts at Gartner say.

In a brief written by analysts Dan Miklovic and Rich Mogull, Gartner offered advice and tips that businesses can take to minimize the impact of the war with Iraq.

"Times of crisis call for enterprises and IT managers to remain cool-headed and to attend to basics," Miklovic and Mogull say in their "How To Respond To War In Iraq" report. "Implement crisis-management plans, but don't make sudden changes in direction or do anything drastic unless it's been thought out."

Actions taken by a business will depend on the company's focus, Miklovic says. Manufacturers should ensure the continuity of their supply chains, he says, while service-oriented companies should stress workforce-management issues. And technology companies should put their time into disaster-recovery and cybersecurity plans.

To defend a company's information infrastructure, Miklovic repeats the often-heard advice to institute best security practices. "Some of the basics you can't repeat often enough. The reality is that people don't listen. Slammer proves that," he says, referring to a worm that wrecked havoc on servers, even though it exploited a known vulnerability.

Other technology-related recommendations include putting disaster-recovery teams on alert, perhaps by canceling vacations of team members; putting in place ways for employees to report suspicious cyberactivities; and expecting a heavier-than-usual load on the network as workers head to the Internet to keep abreast of news.

"Even though the shooting has started, retaliatory actions haven't," Miklovic says. Although it's too early to tell if there will be serious cyber-retaliations, companies should tighten up security now. "The more you do now, the more likely retaliation and hack attacks by activists will be a nonissue."

Among the most intriguing, and often overlooked, areas for companies to put thought and time into are those related to employees. Clear, concise communication between the company and its employees "is one of the most important things a firm can do now," Miklovic says.

He suggests that companies account for all employees, particularly those who are traveling, and have call trees in place to communicate with workers and their families. "If an employee who is traveling loses touch with their family, their family will be calling you for news. Businesses need to keep in very proactive touch with workers on the road."

The analysts also suggest that companies remind workers not to clog up corporate E-mail with discussions about the war. "I'd hate to see what the bandwidth usage is in big companies right now," Miklovic says. He advised businesses to offload inevitable employee conversations from the company's primary resource--E-mail--by creating chat rooms, either with its own technology or by temporarily using an outside hosting service, for people who want to discuss current events.

"Business have to set some limits," Miklovic says. "Business has to go on. We don't win if business collapses."

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