Recent disasters, (natural, accidental or virtual from the internet), across the U.S., and locally, (Sorge’s and their neighbors) have served as painful reminders of the need for an effective Disaster Recover / Business Continuity (BC/DR) Plan. Mother Nature can wreak havoc on any business at any time. There are hackers all over the world writing viruses, trojans and other ways to try and get control of your computer. And one can never forget about Murphy and his favorite law. And statistics are everywhere. The most conservative statistic I found was that over 40 percent of all businesses that experience a disaster never reopen and more than 25 percent of those that do reopen close within two years.
So what can you, as a business owner, do to increase your chance for a successful recovery from those unfortunate disasters that could occur? In a single word, plan. A successful BC/DR plan can be done by businesses of any size. In its simplest form, a BC/DR plan will answer four questions:
1) Where would you work? This can be as simple as working out of a home office, to having an alternate location already in your plan. Don’t forget to include having desks, chairs, computers, phones and supplies for all your employees. You would also need contact information for your suppliers to have your phone lines forwarded, set up email, and internet access.
2) How would you contact your customers, clients or employees? Other than you office, do you have a copy of your employee’s contact information? Can you access your customer or client information?
3) Where are your important business records? There should also be a backup of all your business records offsite. This usually is done by backing up your computer system daily and taking a copy to an offsite storage area. Equally important, but hardly ever done, is to test your backup by actually restoring a file from the backup on a regular basis.
4) Who is responsible for what? This is another way to say implementation. Test your plan at least annually and make sure it works.
Even before creating your own BC/DR plan there are some simple steps that you can do to minimize your potential liability. Have a solid backup of ALL of your data. Store it away from your business. Equally important, but hardly ever done, is to test your backup by actually restoring a file from the backup on a regular basis. Have all of your computers on a surge protector at a minimum, a small battery backup is even better. Move your computer off the floor and definitely out of any basements.
The company I work for has part of the solution. DataGuardian. In short, it is a simple three step plan. Protect the Files (File recovery within minutes). Protect the Server (Recover the downed server, virtually, in less than 2 hours and in some case minutes). Protect the Business (Access all your critical applications and data in less than 48 hours after a major disaster). More details on DataGuardian can be found at http://www.databranch.com/DataGuardian.htm. (I used to work for Databranch at the time this blog was written)
Creating a solid BC/DR plan can take a lot or work and/or cost a lot of money. But not having a plan can be a whole lot worse. So if you don’t have a plan, start now. When you really need it, it could be too late.
(First published 11/12/2009)