A portable business
is a contingency plan for operating your business from an
alternate location. This could be in response to a natural disaster that
threatens or destroys your primary place of business, or a planned and
scheduled temporary measure necessitated by remodeling or moving your place of

Depending on the size, structure and function of your
business, picking up where you left off from a new location may be relatively
simple or very complex. The level of difficulty doesn’t necessarily rise
steadily as the size of your company expands; in fact, it may be easier for a
large enterprise that has multiple geographic sites, to shift the locale of its
business and network operations than for a medium sized business that operates
from one headquarters building.

In this article, we’ll look at some scalable strategies you
can use to develop a plan for making your business more portable.

Data protection

A first step in any continuity plan is to protect the
integrity of your data, since user-created data is the network asset that is
most difficult (or impossible) to recreate. This involves daily backups
(preferably with copies stored off-site) and/or redundant copies of data in
remote locations.

It’s easy for a large company with one more branch offices
to do this. Whether you store the working copies of user data on a centralized
file server or have local file servers for each office, you can replicate them
to all locations so that there are multiple copies at multiple sites. This
makes it easy to recover after a disaster or to access data after a temporary
or permanent relocation.

Small and medium sized companies can use online data storage
services such as those offered by:

Another solution for small companies is to strike up an
agreement with another company you trust, for each to host a server at its location
to which the other can save data over the Internet.

Server redundancy

If you have to move your network to a new location, the next
concern is porting your critical servers. Servers that make up key components
of your network infrastructure include:

  • Domain
  • DNS
  • Web
  • Mail

One way to make these servers and their mission critical
services more portable is to create each separate server as a virtual machine
image that can run on VMWare Server or Microsoft’s
Virtual Server. These images can be installed on a new server and transported as
one or two physical machines instead of a dozen or more.


VMWare announced in early February
2006 that they are now offering a free version of VMWare
Server for both Windows and Linux, which support a number of guest operating
systems, including Windows, Linux, NetWare and Solaris x86. Click here for more

Connectivity continuity

One of the most difficult parts of your network
infrastructure to move quickly and easily is your Internet connectivity. That’s
because your server infrastructure may be dependent on public IP addresses
assigned by your ISP. However, you can work with your ISP and the provider of
your physical connection, such as the phone company that provides your DSL line
(for small businesses) or T-carrier line (for large companies).

If your internal network is behind a NAT, so that computers
on the LAN use private IP addresses, reconfiguration will be much easier in the
new location, even if your new connection is through a different ISP.

Of course, if you have a remote office with its own
connection to the Internet, you have built-in connectivity redundancy. Users
with their own Internet connections at home can VPN into your new location to
access internal resources.

Remote access for client portability

The ultimate in network portability on the client side is
remote access. Users can continue to access their email and network resources
wherever they are with the proper remote access solutions. These include:

  • Home
    computers with consumer Internet connections (DSL, cable, or even dialup).
  • Laptops
    that can be used with hotel broadband services, public wi-fi
    hotspots, etc.
  • Handheld
    computer phones (such as Windows Mobile based smart phones and Pocket PCs)
    with EV-DO, GPRS, HSDPA or other wireless Internet service offered by cell
    phone providers.
  • Public
    Internet-connected computers (such as those in libraries or Internet

Remotely hosted servers

A good business portability strategy will make network
resources available to users in various remote locations, with little or no
downtime when you move your primary business location. This can be made easier
by having your email and Web servers run by a hosting company instead of
on-site. This also means you’ll have fewer servers to port to your new
headquarters location (or duplicate to a remote office).

For example, companies such as 123 Together provide Exchange hosting on
shared or dedicated servers with pricing and capacity plans for companies of
all sizes. Prices vary from $9.95/month per mailbox on a shared server up to
$5,499/month for 500 users on a dedicated server. These services also offer
extras (for an extra fee) such as Blackberry and Treo
integration, server-based spam filtering and message
archiving for HIPAA and SOX compliance.

Other companies, such as ix Webhosting
specialize in hosting of Web servers, with packages ranging from $3.95/month
for 10,000 MB of space and 2 domains to unlimited space and up to 10 domains
for as low as $12.95/month (with a 24-month commitment).

Other servers can be hosted, as well. For example, aplus.net offers dedicated UNIX, Linux or
Windows servers starting at $99 per month, with 99.99% guaranteed uptime. Support
for ASP, Cold Fusion, and MS SQL are also available. Companies such as Catalog.com specialize in hosting of
e-commerce sites.


Whether your business is small or large, chances are at some
point you’ll have to temporarily or permanently move your base of operations to
a new physical location. If you’ve planned ahead, you’ll be able to do so while
causing minimal disruption to your network users (and thus minimize losses in
productivity during and after the move). Plan now for a good business
portability strategy and will scale as your company grows.