While no one has control over when a disaster might strike, your business can and should take steps to map out a clear path to recovery. Through a combination of in-house efforts (such as creating evacuation plans and emergency supply kits) and those delegated to outside specialists like IT outsourcing companies (as with protecting servers and ensuring data recovery), you can act now to prevent a temporary disaster from becoming a permanent company end.
Why You Need A Disaster Recovery Plan
Disasters can take many forms, including natural catastrophes like hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes. Cyberattacks, physical burglaries, and even simple human error can also cause severe disruptions.
These events can cause immediate damage and force extended service outages that prevent your company from serving customers. How quickly you recover from a disaster depends heavily on how much planning you put in ahead of time.
The need for a disaster recovery plan is clear. Between 40% and 60% of small businesses never reopen after a disaster hits. And 90% of smaller companies that don’t reopen within five days after a disaster fails within the next year.
Despite this stark reality, 68% of small businesses don’t have a written disaster recovery plan in place. The good news is, your business can take steps now to make sure you don’t become one of these statistics.
How To Create A Disaster Recovery Plan
Once you realize its importance, how do you go about creating a plan? You may not have the budget to outsource the entire process, given the expense involved. Not to worry! You should be able to create a plan primarily in-house, with perhaps a few steps delegated to outside experts.
- Identify the specific disaster risks your small business is likely to face. Knowing that information can guide you in creating the most appropriate and effective plan.
- Set up an early warning system, which might include such simple components as an NOAA weather radio and smoke detectors, to let you know when a disaster is coming.
- Seek specialized help in assessing how to protect the physical location of your business from likely disasters. This might include adding shutters to protect windows from hurricane winds and rain, or backup emergency lights to help people leave safely if the power goes out. Look into network security measures as well, such as firewalls and antivirus software.
- Make sure your business has the appropriate insurance policies in place, given the specific disasters you’re likely to deal with. Make sure the policies are current and include sufficient coverage amounts.
- Create and maintain a detailed inventory list of your business equipment and other physical assets, including computers.
During a Disaster
- Create an evacuation plan that will enable your employees, customers, and any visitors to safely leave the premises in case of emergency. This should include the identification of an off-premise location where people can go. Post this plan in a visible area at your business.
- Assign disaster recovery plan roles and responsibilities to specific employees and train them on exactly what they need to do if a disaster happens.
- Develop a post-disaster communication system. Compile contact information for your employees, significant clients, insurance agents, and claims representatives, suppliers, emergency management agencies, and financial institutions. Also, you’ll need a specific strategy for how best to reach them following a disaster. Make sure you share the details of this communication strategy with them.
- Consult with an IT outsourcing company to set up a data backup and recovery system to protect the essential information and ensure quick access to it in the case of a cyberattack, natural disaster, or even human error. This system should cover your network, servers, computers, wireless devices, software applications, and internet connectivity. It will likely involve off-site data storage in a cloud-based system and/or in hard copy form.
- Identify a temporary, alternative location for your business to operate from, in case a disaster renders your current location unusable. Alternatively, look into setting up a remote work strategy so employees can work from home.
Maintaining Your Disaster Recovery Plan
Once you’ve developed your disaster recovery plan, share it with employees and significant customers, so they understand what it is and how it works. Practice your evacuation plan regularly. Notify new clients or suppliers of your post-disaster communication strategy.
Train new employees on the plan details, especially their specific responsibilities. Test data backup and recovery systems and network security measures to ensure they’re functioning correctly. Finally, update your plan at least once a year, including contact info, inventory list, and plan responsibilities.
Don’t let a disaster mean the end of the small business you’ve worked so hard to build. While post-disaster recovery might not be easy, it can become more manageable when you create and maintain a detailed disaster recovery plan. In fact, having such a plan in place can be the difference between business survival and failure.
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