In times of chaos, SunGard's mobile office is an island of normality

Portable offices create a back-to-work environment in worst circumstances

The inside of SunGard's mobile office is quiet despite the operation of a generator. It can support 50 people in a space not much larger than a two-bedroom apartment. The IT equipment at each work space is unobtrusive, and it doesn't feel cramped.

This portable facility is designed to work in areas where nothing else is working. It is for use in places where there is no power or network. It's for disaster zones. It also has "executive" level portable bathrooms in separate units, apart from the work spaces.

The mobile office is hauled by a tractor trailer, the same type seen on freeways hauling produce. But once it is parked, one side pops out, creating 982 square feet of work space. A 75 KW generator powers the systems and it sits on air cushions that eliminate vibration. Total set-up time is 90 minutes.

SunGard set up one of its mobile office units, called the Mobile MetroCenter, just outside of Washington to demonstrate its capabilities. The office was running off the generator.

There aren't many of these mobile offices. SunGard, which provides disaster recovery and managed IT services, has built 20 mobile office workspace units and plans to add five more, a significant expansion driven by two things: extreme weather and a desire by employers to keep workers close to home.

In the event of a disaster, Ron LaPedis, SunGard's workforce continuity strategist, says employees don't want to be relocated to a remote facility. "Employees really want to stay close to home," he said.

LaPedis said companies are becoming more empathic and "people focused," in part because employees who are near home "are more productive when they are not worrying about family back home."

SunGard also produces mobile data centers. The MetroCenter has a small, closet-sized, raised floor space for racks, routers, and VOIP systems. It has a satellite link for data and voice, and the company has reserved space for these connections.

The mobile centers can be used in any number of ways, such as an executive command center, a call center, and even a portable bank, as it was in one case.

One issue playing a role in the expanding interest in mobile offices, is the rise in extreme weather. The U.S. Department of Energy released a report last month warning that climate change and extreme weather, including more intense storms, are putting U.S. infrastructure at risk, particularly energy supplies.

Haim Glickman, vice president of SunGard Recovery Services East, said employers are thinking more about what to do in cases of extreme weather, "which is why we are investing in the business."

This article, In times of chaos, SunGard's mobile office is an island of normality , was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

See more by Patrick Thibodeau on Computerworld.com.

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