Disaster recovery for small businesses: How to plan for the next storm


November 1, 2018

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A storm is brewing, and it’s headed your way. With hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and fires making the headlines, you’re not wrong to worry about a major disaster.

Surviving the initial onslaught is the primary objective, of course. But once you dust yourself off and get back on your feet, you’re left to deal with the aftermath. The recovery period can last for months or even years as the local economy struggles to spring back and area residents and businesses rebuild.

For today’s networked businesses, a huge part of the recovery effort is restoring IT systems and devices. Here, as with your physical assets, you’ll want to follow the Scouts motto and be prepared. Read on for the how and why of disaster recovery for your IT services.

Plan now or suffer later

As the saying goes, hope is not a strategy. In the wake of a disaster, you can’t simply cross your fingers and pray that your data and hardware wasn’t impacted. With millions of dollars—or even your entire business—on the line, it pays to proactively plan for disaster. That plan must not only cover employee safety and business contingency, but also properly address how you’ll recover virtual assets and bring IT services back online once the storm waters recede.

Not convinced? Here are a few facts that might sway you.


Key parts of a solid disaster recovery plan

There’s no arguing that Texas has seen some massive disasters; from Hurricane Harvey to the Bastrop wildfires, Mother Nature certainly hasn’t spared the Lone Star State. Indeed, the disaster tolls have been massive: Harvey impacted more than 500,000 businesses in 41 Texas counties, while the fires in Bastrop burned 34,068 acres and destroyed homes and businesses alike.

You don’t want to face that kind of potential damage without some sort of plan. From data backups to device recovery, every digital asset needs to be addressed. Specifically, here’s what you need to reestablish IT services in the wake of a disaster.

  • Take stock of IT assets. Your business probably needs more than a server to run, so you’ll also need to consider the workstations, laptops, firewalls and other hardware that make daily operations possible. Your Wi-Fi, networks, device connectivity or cabling, software and data will all need to be inventoried before you begin creating your recovery plan. Ask your business IT support provider for help if you’re not sure what that entails.
  • Outline recovery strategies. Recovery strategies that detail which backup data centers and servers can be pressed into operation in the event of a disaster are the heart of any good disaster plan. Identify critical data and implement regular automated backups, ideally once a day, and convert hard copies of data records into a digital format if you haven’t already. You may also want to invest in disaster recovery services from your business IT support provider, such as provision of a “hot site”: a fully configured office location with a data center, computers, phones and other devices you’ll need to resume operations quickly.
  • Document your plan. The aftermath of a natural disaster is no time for uncertainty. With this in mind, the details of your plan should be fully documented in an accessible location, and you’ll need to instruct business IT support how to get to it when operations are impacted. Generally, your IT disaster recovery plan should be disclosed as part of a larger business continuity plan.
  • Test it. Like conducting a fire or tornado drill, the best way to perfect your disaster plan is through practice. Test your processes before disaster strikes and periodically audit procedures to ensure that everything still works.
  • Review and update it regularly. When it comes to IT, a few months is practically a lifetime, so you’ll need to regularly review your plan. Don’t forget to update it with procedures for new hardware, networks, servers and so forth.

If you take the time to plan ahead, you can buffer your business against the headwinds of a natural disaster—and protect yourself from financial ruin in the process. But there’s more to that process than we can cover here. For the full picture, download our free business resumption plan template to get your plan in the works. You don’t have to weather the storm all by yourself.

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