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The most common business disaster is data loss

According to a NY Times story by Jennifer Walzer, the most common business disaster is data loss.  When disaster strikes, chances are it will not be a natural disaster that affects everyone in your city. 
What about smaller events that affect just your business or the block where your business is located?  What would you do if you walked into your office one day and your phone system did not work or there was a water line break in your office? What if you had to evacuate because of a gas leak in the area? These events are easy to plan for, but they can have a big impact on your business if you are not prepared. These type of disasters could lose your company money just as a fire would but insurance doesn’t always cover these types of loses.  The underlying question is, how do you plan for the unexpected?

Small disasters like the ones mentioned cost businesses money every day and most could be avoided by careful planning. Data loss alone costs businesses billions of dollars every year.

Every business should have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. Unfortunately, because the idea of developing one can seem time-consuming and tedious, many entrepreneurs choose to go without one. Although it’s always best to have a complete plan, it’s better to have a few crucial pieces than nothing at all. So even if you can’t do everything, do something.

To simplify the disaster-recovery planning process, break the overall task into building blocks, covering major areas of data, communication, and people. Use it as a starting point and adjust it to fit your own needs.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of developing a disaster-recovery plan on your own, hire an expert. Investing a few dollars now can save money — or even your entire business — down the road.

Data

The most common business disaster is data loss, which can result from a number of causes including human error, hardware failure, natural disaster, and theft. Fortunately, data loss is easy to recover from if you have a backup solution in place. To make sure you get the right solution for your business’s needs, follow these steps:

1. Familiarize yourself with your data. Know what you have, where it is and what is most important. If you walked into your office tomorrow and your data were gone, what would you miss the most?

2. Consider backup options. Your backup must be offsite, secure and available for recovery 24/7. One popular option that meets the above criteria, with the added benefit of ease of use and automation, is an online backup. 
3. If you have chosen to outsource your backup needs, make sure that you choose a provider that offers security, monitoring, and support.  Take into account your HIPAA, GLBA, SOX, or PII  requirements

4. Decide who will be responsible for either managing backups internally or work with your selected provider to get your backup solution carried out.  Automated usually works best.

5. Do a run-through of the recovery process. Backup is nothing without recovery, so be sure that you are familiar with the recovery process and confident that it works smoothly. Your provider should be happy to walk you through a test-recovery procedure.

6. Review your data regularly to be sure you’re backing up everything you need. For example, if you add a new server in your office, your backups should reflect this addition. This should be done every other quarter if not once a quarter.

Contact and Communication

All the contact information and communication methods that you take for granted could be inaccessible in an emergency. As part of your own planning, you should create backup contact lists and set up alternative methods of communication:

1. Decide on inter-company communication methods to be used if you cannot enter your office. Options include cell phones, instant messaging, Skype and a Web-based e-mail service like Gmail or Yahoo.

2. Make arrangements for incoming communications (how clients and others will reach you). Consider using a VoIP system which let you forward your office lines to other numbers. 

3. Create contact lists so that you aren’t stuck without critical information when you lack access to your servers. Upload documents to an online location so that they are accessible from anywhere.

People

For your plan to work, you need to prepare your employees so that they understand where to go and what to do if something happens:

1. Identify critical functions like setting up communication methods, drafting e-mail messages, contacting clients and vendors and handling insurance.

2. Decide who will be responsible for your critical functions.

3. Designate a location where everyone in your office will meet if you need to evacuate.

4. Designate an alternative working location (or locations), whether it be another office space you can use, or everyone working from home.

5. When your plan is complete, distribute it to every employee. Consider uploading a copy to an online location accessible to all employees at all times.

6. Review your plan with your employees regularly.

At some point your business is going to face an emergency situation, it’s just a matter of what type, what magnitude and when. The best preparation for any situation you may face is to have a well-thought-out plan in place and to educate your team on its elements.

 

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Source:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/10/business/smallbusiness/10disaster.html?mcubz=0

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