6 Essential tips for complete disaster preparedness

The impact of an unexpected disaster is simply immeasurable in the business world. While the obvious financial and operational implications of a crisis are immediate, the deep-seated repercussions of a natural disaster or human-induced error can echo throughout the organization for years – sometimes bringing on an early demise.

As the U.S. Small Business Administration articulated in its “Prepare My Business” initiative, preparedness must be engrained into the fabric of a business’ daily functions, not only in the IT department or the C-suite. After all, successful disaster recovery isn’t just an action plan – it’s a state of mind that must be shared by all.

To create a company culture with continuity in its DNA, decision-makers must put all the necessary measures in place, actively promoting a mindset of preparedness to ensure personnel and systems are ready for anything. Here are six tips that business leaders in any sector can apply to their organizations to strengthen their operations in the event of a worst-case scenario.

1. Create a continuity checklist: The building block of any continuity blueprint is a comprehensive and up-to-date checklist that compiles crucial business functions, key personnel and the tools needed to keep productivity buzzing. As a recent article from CRN suggested, this list can be the foundation for contingency plans including the identification of backup workstations, secondary communications platforms, employee alert systems and the chain of command in a disaster situation. In other words, the checklist is the road map that gives rise to the entirety of the continuity strategy.

“Leave no stone unturned when crafting a continuity checklist.”

Business leaders must not skimp on the details of this document – in fact, it’s always better to include a surplus of detail to make things unmistakably clear for everyone involved. That means locking down procurement channels for backup energy resources, office supplies and equipment and tailored requirements of specialized teams or departments. Leave no stone unturned on this crucial checklist.

2. Prioritize mission-critical systems: Decision-makers face many forks in the road when tasked with the creation of a disaster recovery strategy, especially when the conversation turns to IT. Simply put, not all applications, data and operating systems will be available for immediate restoration, no matter how advanced an organization’s systems may be. Leaders must identify which digital assets are truly essential to the continuation of business processes, and be willing to set other systems on the back burner. CRN spoke with David Van Allen, an IT expert with INetU, who reiterated this reality.

“Identifying business-critical functions, such as accounting, billing, ERP systems, is also crucial. Basic systems or processes must be restored to keep a business functioning,” Van Allen told the source.

3. Map out a clear plan of action: This is the bread and butter of a continuity strategy, and the crux of a business’s overall resilience when faced with a crisis. Unlike the checklist, which points out the important elements continuity, this plan must be expanded with clear-cut directions and requirements for every employee within the organization. This must include components such as the immediate course of action when disaster strikes, but also account for teleworking procedures and alternative workspace locations for the hours and days following an incident.

4. Involve every single stakeholder: Honoring client and customer relationships is a commonly overlooked aspect of continuity, and a major difference-maker in the competitive strength of an organization during a challenging period of operation. CRN recommended that keeping websites up and running during a disaster is a good way to stay in touch with key external stakeholders, but the best businesses will take communications to the next level with dedicated channels that ensure clients are kept in the loop.

Even if products or services aren’t readily available during a crisis situation, it’s crucial that a company actively and dynamically engages its customers support and provides a timeline for the immediate future.

Communication is a pivotal component of a business continuity plan.

5. Work closely with a provider: Even the most detail-oriented business leaders have blind spots when it comes to mapping out a continuity plan, which is why a dedicated service provider is utterly invaluable for complete preparedness. It’s easy to overlook minute details when checklists, DR blueprints and employee action plans are crafted entirely in-house, so bringing in a second set of eyes – especially those of a continuity expert – can fill in any glaring gaps in a strategy.

“I think that people in business sometimes try to plan for the worst and they actually underprepare as a result,” said Van Allen, as quoted by CRN.

6. Learn from mistakes with testing: All the planning in the world can’t offer the same level of insight that continuity test run, and every business must make a habit of regularly putting its strategy on trial. A test can instantly reveal any shortcomings, miscommunications or confusion regarding the strategy at large, and can offer much-needed assurance to stakeholders throughout the organization.

“Pick a day once a year, where Business Continuity Day is set aside so your whole business can activate the business continuity plan,” Van Allen told the source.

With each of these components deeply engrained into its overarching business outlook, a company will have a 360-degree approach to continuity that is built to last.