Monthly Archives: December 2015

Add a business continuity and disaster recovery plan for 2016

As small businesses approach the end of the year, it's a natural time to take stock of the situation and assess areas that can be improved upon for 2016. Owners and decision-makers can feel like they are always struggling to make as many upgrades as possible with very limited resources.

Companies need to spend money on a variety of strategic elements to stay afloat, from marketing to bringing in new talent to upgrading IT systems. One area that is too often overlooked is how a business will continue to function in the event of a major disaster or outage.

Natural and manmade disasters may seem like distant dangers to many small-business owners as they see them play out on the news, but these events can strike anywhere and anytime, and may affect a company's operations.

According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, three in 10 small businesses were closed for at least 24 hours due to a natural disaster in the past three years. Those closures can have a massive impact on a business, but few are prepared. The source noted that only 38 percent of small businesses had a disaster recovery plan in place.

But large disasters that affect everyone are not the only dangers to plan for, business can be knocked out by much smaller issues. A broken pipe could cause the office to flood, destroying computers and documents, construction near the facility could cause a power outage that could last hours or days. A company needs to be prepared for anything. 

It's imperative that every business, of every size, has a disaster plan – and the consequences are steep if the plan is ignored. Many small operations do not reopen after a disaster, especially those without plans in place.

"Floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards and many other natural disasters have the power to knock commerce offline."

Know the risks
The first step in developing a good disaster recovery and business continuity plan is to understand the risks that the small business faces. Floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards and many other natural disasters as well as the smaller issues like electrical outages and network downtime have the power to knock commerce offline. A company needs to understand which disasters are potentially threatening it so that it can plan accordingly.

A good first step is ensuring that a small business is carrying enough and the right kind of insurance, according to another article from the National Federation of Independent Businesses. For instance, flood insurance is often a separate policy, and these losses are not covered under other insurance waivers.

A business should also understand the risks that are specific to what it does, according to PC Magazine. A financial firm that is heavily involved in the markets likely can't afford even a few minutes of downtime on their network, while a law firm needs to be certain that its case files are secure and accessible, even in an emergency.

Get help
For a small business, dealing with all of the backup and planning needs of truly comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery is probably impossible. There aren't enough employees with enough free time to stop working to focus on planning for the worst.

Small-business owners can partner with a managed service provider to implement a program for a reasonable cost. By hiring an outside firm, decision-makers at small employers can bring focus and expertise to the realm of disaster recovery and business continuity planning. Hiring an expert can provide peace of mind to a business, making sure that its strategy will protect it even in the worst situations.

Business continuity and disaster recovery are possible for an SMB

Operations interruptions are unavoidable in the modern business world, and companies of all kinds need to be prepared for the worst when it comes to disruptions from natural or man-made disasters. Interruptions can take the form of something as simple as a power outage or as massive as a terrorist attack, but the one constant is that no organization is immune to the dangers. According to an infographic from Venture Beat, 73 percent of businesses have faced some type of operations issue in the past five years.

For a large company, disaster recovery and business continuity are simple issues to tackle. As a core part of their function, IT departments handle data backups, recovering information and keeping the business running in the event of an emergency. But small and medium-sized businesses may not have a dedicated team on staff, ready to respond to problems and downtime.

For many SMBs, this means operating without a concrete business continuity or disaster recovery plan, which can prove dangerous. According to the Small Business Association, 25 percent of small businesses do not reopen after a major disaster, largely because they were unprepared – so ignoring the problem is not a viable solution.

However, there is hope. Third-party vendors that deal with business continuity and disaster recovery exist and are within reach for even a frugal small business. But before enlisting help, a company needs to make sure it understands where its vulnerabilities lie.

Establishing which files are critical to a company and which are less important is a good first step.Establishing which files are critical to a company and which are less important is a good first step.

Documents and data
Knowing which pieces of information are critical and which are less important to the day-to-day function of a business is the first step. Organizations need to ensure that they have continuity in processes and that the most mission-critical data is accessible even if the office is not, according to Data Center Knowledge. Implementing an enterprise content management system is a good first step, as it moves essential information to the cloud where it can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection.

Computer backups are also a critical piece of disaster preparation, as well as good practice for more minor hiccups like temporary loss of a network. Lost data can mean lost revenue, so having a secure, off-site place where all important information is backed up and stored should be part of any plan.

People and places
The next piece of the puzzle is creating a system for communication between departments in the event of a disaster. Those who will make the decisions in the event of an emergency should have a clear plan that allows them to easily contact each department to issue instructions. Each of those departments should also have a communication plan to distribute information to employees, as well as enable them to interact with each other in the event that they cannot use the office, Data Center Knowledge noted.

It also helps to have a backup plan in mind in case the office is inaccessible to some or all of a company's employees. If possible, create a setup that allows employees to work from home, or even establish a backup office location with redundant systems ready in case the main office is unavailable.