13 Sep Disaster Recovery Planning – IT Lessons from Hurricane Season
Hurricanes. Floods. Fires. Tornados. Natural disasters remind us that we can’t control everything. What we can control is how we prepare in advance and how we respond afterward.
Preparation is critical!
Imagine that a fire burnt your business to the ground overnight. How quickly could you get back up and running?
I worry about all the small businesses in Houston and Florida.
- Will their employees and vendors get paid?
- How quickly will they be able to re-open their doors?
- Will they be able to restore from back up? Have they ever tested the process?
- Do they have all the vital information about their technology environment?
- Have they relied on vendors or consultants who may have lost all their data in the disaster?
Remember those fire drills from grade school.
While as kids, this exercise was a fun break from the school day, schools were taking responsibility for the fact that in a disaster, they are responsible for their students’ well-being. They wanted every teacher and every student to know exactly what to do – without question. Each drill helped them refine the process and reinforce the learning. Guess what?
As the business owner, you are 100% responsible for your business.
Not your employees.
Not your vendors or consultants.
And if disaster strikes, it pays to be prepared. Most businesses need two plans – a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan.
Creating a Business Continuity Plan
Some businesses must find a way to continue, even in a disaster. Most businesses would prefer to minimize business disruption. A business continuity plan helps you figure out what you need to keep operations up and running.
- Can you keep your business going by switching operations to a remote location?
- Are there areas of the business that you should shut down so you can focus on more vital business functions?
- What is the minimum skeleton infrastructure you need to keep going?
- Think through every step of the process. During Hurricane Sandy, backup generators failed at major New York hospitals. Hospital employees had to carry fuel up multiple flights of stairs to feed the generators. Patients’ lives were at risk. The hospitals had business continuity plans, but they didn’t do enough testing.
- TEST THE SCENARIOS. Like the fire drill, physically walk through the steps to see how much time it takes, and where there are inefficiencies or missing steps. We frequently see companies make backup after backup, but when they finally try to recover the data – something goes wrong. Don’t skip this step!
- Avoid areas where a “single point of failure” could sabotage the rest of the plan. Give yourself options.
Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan
The other vital plan is a disaster recovery plan. You may not be in an area that has frequent natural disasters, but you are still vulnerable to hardware failures, employee mistakes, malware, theft, fire, and other data loss vulnerabilities.
If in some unforeseen disaster, you lose your data – or access to your data – you’ll want to think about:
- How quickly you need to be back up and running?
- How much data can you afford to lose?
Read the rest of our backup and recovery best practice recommendations.
Building your Emergency Binder
Whether you have a disaster or not, you need what we refer to as “a red binder.” This binder is not always red, and it’s not always a physical binder. But in this binder, you need to have up-to-date information about:
- All software programs and passwords
- File names
- Configuration settings
- Support phone numbers
Your emergency may be that the IT guy quits. Then what? How do you get someone to fill his or her shoes? The red binder ensures that you, as the business owner, can access your computer systems, even if you never want to or need to.
Don’t forget about the Disaster Recovery Plans of Your Vendors
It doesn’t have to be your disaster to need a disaster recovery plan. Do you know how much backup infrastructure your cloud-based software programs have? A smaller cloud-based CRM company went out of business as the result of Katrina. Everyone on that system lost their customer data. Horror stories abound about programmers losing custom source code. Fortunately, thanks to inexpensive online data storage, this happens less frequently.
Data Recovery Is About Reducing Risk
Yes, there is a real cost to having data recovery plans and business continuity plans. Just like there is a real cost to insurance. What could be more important than keeping your business up and running? If your business can continue to thrive, you can continue earning money to re-purchase any material positions. If your business fails (as 66% do after a major data loss), you start over, perhaps with debt. It’s not fun.
We are very mindful of that as a small business, you may have very real budgetary limits. We work hard to help you understand your risks and your options and make the decision that’s right for your business.
Request a free Discovery Session to see how we can help you sleep better at night, knowing your information is safely stored and can be easily recovered in any emergency.