VPNs could be your best friend if the bird flu hits hard.Unlike other disasters that might destroy the building where employees work every day and where recovery involves having an alternate site, recovery from an epidemic would involve keeping people away from each other until the threat of infection is past.Experts say remote access will be the key to keeping businesses going during an outbreak, and VPNs will be an important part.The key for businesses is to act now to develop a plan. Recovery plans already in place may be sufficient if they are designed to allow large numbers of workers to do their jobs from home. One business in Canada, for example, already has a plan in place for snowy days when it's impossible for people to get to work. This happens regularly to all employees, so is parallel to the epidemic case.Things to consider include whether an epidemic would trap more workers at home than the remote access VPNs can handle. An assessment should be followed up with added capacity if necessary. And if the added demand is significant enough, it may warrant back-up access lines to provide extra bandwidth.SSL VPNs may have the edge over IPSec VPNs in this scenario because workers who don't have company-issued laptops with VPN clients may be pressed into working from home from their own PCs. SSL VPNs require only browsers to support at least some remote access, so company issued devices may not be necessary.The key here, according to Gartner, is to act now to get a plan in place. Just last week, the nation's top avian flu coordinator said the virus could reach the U.S. within the next six months\u00a0and at some point it is virtually sure to mutate into a strain that can easily jump from human to human rather than from birds to humans under extreme circumstances. The key is to start now getting ready if you haven't yet.