By Claire West

During last winter’s snow storms it is estimated that UK business lost over £7 billion. With another hard winter reported to be approaching, businesses must ensure they are better prepared so that staff can work from home, without compromising security, if they are unable to make it into the office.

Last year Signify, a leading vendor of secure two-factor authentication hosted services, saw a rise of over 50% in remote log-ins to corporate IT systems when travel disruption was at its worst. The latest addition to Signify’s range of hosted two-factor authentication services - Signify ICE, The In Case of Emergency Service - allows rapid deployment of secure remote access to corporate IT networks.

“The ability to keep going through all eventualities is essential for today’s businesses,” said Dave Abraham, CEO of Signify. “But at the same time security can not be compromised; so by providing employees with secure remote access they are able to work securely and effectively from home to minimise the loss of productivity. The problem is that although many organisations provide secure remote access for senior executives and staff on the road, the ability to authenticate more staff for short term secure remote access to essential email, files and applications is important to deal with these emergencies.”

According to the Federation of Small Businesses, up to three million people missed work because of the snow back on Tuesday 5th January 2010, and that alone cost businesses £600 million. And a recent YouGov poll found that 58% of small businesses suffered as a result of the winter weather in 2009/2010, even though they had thought they were prepared. Another cold snap this year could have similar consequences if companies do not ensure employees have secure access the data and applications they need to do their jobs.

When an incident occurs, administrators simply go to the Signify web portal and select the additional users requiring authentication for the organisation’s remote access solution. These users are then notified of the incident automatically by email or SMS and are directed to where they can set up a secret PIN and request a One Time Passcode (OTP). The OTP is sent to their mobile phone via SMS, which is entered along with their secret PIN when they log in to their network, identifying them securely and enabling business to carry on as usual.

“As well as rapid deployment of new users, with our flexible hosted service, infrequent users who may have forgotten their log-in details are able to request a new PIN or get immediate guidance from our self-service web site or telephone helpdesk,” continued Abraham.

The beauty of using a reliable hosted service is that there is no up front investment and it is very quick and affordable to deploy as well as being flexible and easy to manage for any size of organisation.

With increasing disruption to business and public sector services caused by severe weather conditions, transport strikes, virus outbreaks, terrorist threats and now erupting volcanoes, Signify ICE can play a vital role in business continuity management (BCM) by allowing staff who don’t normally work remotely to work from home, with secure access to their email, files and applications.