Here’s a sobering statistic: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, roughly 40 percent of companies hit by natural disasters never reopen. Could that be your business? Could you be about to watch your data vanish, and the systems that power your small business fail if disaster struck? It could be—especially if you didn’t have a disaster preparedness plan in place. Here’s a primer on disaster preparedness and how you can develop a plan that will protect both your company and your data in the event of a disaster.
Cloud Technology: Changing Everything
Cloud technology has changed many things for businesses, and storing and protecting data is but one advantage cloud offers. Storing your customer data in the cloud is not only secure and cost-effective, it can also help you recover critical business data and continue to operate in the event of a natural disaster, fire, or some other kind of loss. But disaster preparedness doesn’t happen by accident—it’s an important component of your strategic business plan, so be sure you treat it as such. That said, what steps should you take to keep your valuable client information safe? Preparing for the worst is easier than you think—let’s take a look.
Start by Assessing Your Data
The time to assess what you’ve got and what you need to provide for is now, not after the fact. Knowing where the company’s most-used data and sensitive customer information are stored is the key to developing your disaster recovery plan. Once you have a clear picture of who uses what data and when they use it, you can make a plan to prioritize disaster recovery (DR). Remember, in many cases, not all data is a necessary part of this equation. In some instances, only some of your data is critical for everyday operations, and having access to the most important pieces will save you valuable business time.
Form a Strategic Partnership with a Provider
You’re probably already using other forms of cloud computing in your business, and adding disaster preparedness to the equation is just the next step in your business evolution. Once you’ve performed a usage assessment, partner with a managed IT services provider to store your most critical systems off premise, in the cloud. If you aren’t already doing so, make sure you have inventory and your customer record management (CRM), accounting, payroll, and benefits backed up at a secondary site. An experienced provider can offer assistance with this while providing ongoing monitoring to ensure data is being regularly backed up and always secure.
With the help of an experienced managed services provider, you’ll be in a good position to ride out any situation that might come your way.
Create Your Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Plan, Test It Regularly
It’s important to have a written Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) plan in the event of power failure, equipment failure, or in the case of any catastrophic event that could result in downtime. It’s also important for that written plan to be off-site and accessible from anywhere. Consider keeping a hard copy in your home office, and another in the cloud, where it’s accessible by members of your IT team in the case of an emergency. While this may seem like an obvious piece of advice, many of us forget to keep written copies when we conduct so much of our business virtually, and/or to provide access to that plan to the key members who might need it.
When formulating your plan, keep a few essential tenets in mind:
- What are the most likely threats to your particular business or industry?
- How will you address them?
- How can your disaster recovery plan account for everything from human error to natural disaster?
- Be sure and measure your end goals with the most cost-efficient strategy.
Once you have a plan in place, don’t neglect the testing phase; it will allow you to work out any kinks in the system before disaster strikes.
Think Beyond Data
If you want to keep your business up and running even in in the event of a disaster, you’re going to have to back up more than just data. Be sure to have safeguards for operating systems and applications (and their licenses) or any other essential cogs in your daily business operations.
Additionally, don’t forget to have backup contingencies for your laptops and mobile devices. Suppose your business must set up shop outside your office to keep things going, you’ll need the resources to get the job done at whatever location you end up. Fortunately, in today’s computing age, cloud-based technology is enabling the remote worker, allowing you to access information on the fly. That is, assuming the data itself remained unharmed should such a scenario arise.
A disaster preparedness plan is an essential part of your successful business operation. Proper planning, needs analysis, regular testing and practice and ongoing monitoring, will save you time and money in the event of a disaster, and substantially reduce any downtime you might experience as a result. For many businesses, that’s like money in the bank.