Are you prepared for the unexpected?

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery are words your IT department throws around but do you understand what they mean?

The idea isn’t just backing up your data and it isn’t just information Technology.  What do you do if your car won’t start in the morning? Do you call in sick, do you take a Cab, or do you take your second car.  This is an example of Business Continuity. The example might not be bad if you couldn’t work for one day, but let’s say something else major happens and you can’t work for a week or even a month.  Now this could be a problem and your business may suffer.  How bad your business suffers also depends on the size of your company and what you do.  I am sure you have thought about scenarios like this but haven’t written a plan because you don’t think it will happen to you.

I had a friend with a company and it was starting to do extremely well and he had several employees that worked for him along with some family members.  Well one day, even though he seemed to be healthy, had a heart attack and died.  I know this isn’t the story you really want to be thinking about but maybe you should, the heart attack could be a drunk driver, or a rouge bus, anything. Well, the family had to struggle to get everything transferred over to another person’s name. Some accounts took time, they had to prove death and then there were the accounts he may have had that only he knew about and they are still out there and creating debt or collecting interest and no one knows. So the point to this very depressing story is you never know what can happen.  You need to have everything documented, for not only your personal life, but, for your company. This is your legacy you didn’t work hard building your company just to see it go under just because you didn’t plan for the unexpected, small or large.

The first step in Business Continuity Planning is to identify high probability risks that could lead to an unexpected shutdown of your business. An operational risk analysis will consider the probability of a given risk and the monetary impact the occurrence of such a risk will have on your business. Identification of risks also leads to the identification of the actions you need to reduce the impact of them.

Mitigate Risk

Risk mitigation begins by taking pre-emptive strikes to shore up potential weaknesses. Risks are also mitigated by lining up recovery resources in advance. Advanced planning allows for smoother and more efficient implementation of recovery practices.

Reasons for Unexpected Shutdowns

  • Risks that impact business operations
  • Risks to the health, safety and welfare of employees and/or the public
  • Risks to physical facilities

These types of risks can permanently shut down your business. The New York Times reported that almost 50,000 small businesses were permanently shut down after the World Trade Center incident on September 11, 2001. Those who did survive had business continuity plans.

3 Components of Disaster Recovery

Planning and Preparation: What steps do you take to ensure you are prepared?

  • Because you drive through the nail factory every day, you should keep a spare in the trunk
  • Check the spare tire each time you check your oil to make sure it is still there.
  • Keep the spare tire changing manual in the glove box, and make a “dry run,” practice changing the tire in the driveway.

System and Technology Preparation: Do you have the tools you need in case of a problem?

  • Is the spare inflated?
  • Is the spare tire the correct model?
  • Can you get another spare if this one doesn’t work?
  • Does the jack work?

Incident Response Planning: You’ve got a flat tire! What do you do?

  • Follow the spare tire manual; you change the flat with the spare.
  • You proceed to the nearest service station, as stated in the manual, to have your primary tire repaired.
  • You place the spare with the repaired primary tire.
  • You check the spare and place it back in the trunk for the next time.

In a nutshell this is a Disaster Recovery Strategy. While the technical and the logistical aspects of a Disaster Recovery can be complex, the operational components can be boiled down to three basic concepts.

Do you know what your risks are?

Are you taking the necessary steps to proactively prepare for the problems?

Do you have a plan identifying how to respond when a problem occurs?

The Boy and Girl Scouts of America provide a prime example of a Disaster Recovery Strategy in their simple, yet effective slogan, “Be Prepared”

Natural Disasters

  • Earthquakes
  • Flood Mitigation Techniques
  • Hurricanes
  • Tornadoes
  • Wildfires

System and Technology Preparation

Failure to protect your business data will inevitably lead to the inability to access data and/or the permanent loss of it during the aftermath of a disaster. Today, there is really no reason that this should happen. Backup solutions are very economical; you just have to be aware of best practices.

Here are some solutions:

  • Cloud Computing
  • Secure Data Backup
  • Incidence Response Planning

Disaster Approaching

  • Secure facility as prescribed in planning and preparation section
  • Stock up on any necessary supplies for operating your business that may be in short supply afterwards
  • Make sure data is backed up
  • Have backup communication available
  • Have evacuation routes laid out
  • Have a plan for operating remotely
  • Have service contracts lined up in advance; this includes a disaster recovery specialist
  • It is very important to choose an experienced disaster recovery specialist in advance
  • Have important phone numbers, insurance policy numbers and account numbers in a handy take away file but also have the information available in the cloud.

Disaster Strikes

  • Safety always comes first
  • Make sure that all personnel are protected as far in advance as possible; if disaster is unexpected, always place the safety of personnel over data recovery etc.
  • Evacuate with important information file.  If this is not possible all of your phone and service contract information should be available online in a web email account which is accessible from a safe location with Internet access

Disaster Recovery

  • Call your disaster recovery specialistand insurance provider from your evacuation site; this will put your intentions at the head of the queue.  After a disaster, service providers will give priority to those who already have service contracts in place; businesses with service contracts with disaster recovery specialists will experience less unexpected shutdown time.
  • Return to your business only when it has been deemed safe to do so; in the meantime and if possible, operate remotely.

Planning is Critical to the Life of Your Business

You do not need to be a disaster expert to protect your business. Discussing all of the above with a disaster recovery specialist prior to a disaster will help you become aware of planning steps that are specific to your business and your area.  A customized plan can then be implemented.