Hurricanes. Fires. Equipment failure. Theft. What would you do if your company’s emails, billing records, customer files, inventory reports, payroll and tax information suddenly disappeared? If you’re unsure, it’s time to create a disaster preparedness plan. Having a solid plan in place will help businesses minimize loss and disruption and return to normal operations as quickly as possible in the event of a disaster. This is especially critical for small businesses.
This checklist will help you assess, document and execute a disaster plan so your business can be up and running as soon as possible after a disaster:
Develop a written, documented disaster preparedness plan
Work with your team leaders (office managers, IT, security, sales, etc.) to create a detailed, written plan of action that makes sense for your company. Be sure the plan includes emergency contact information for your employees, vendors, etc. You’ll also need to have a copy of your plan in a safe location outside the office.
Communicate your disaster preparedness plan
How will everyone within your company communicate with one another in the face of a disaster? How will they ensure that everyone is safe and that each person is aware of his or her responsibility in helping to maintain operations? Hold a company-wide meeting in order to review your plan in detail. Ensure that all employees—from the receptionist to the CEO and those that work part time or remotely—receive both an electronic version and a printed copy. Any time the plan changes, be sure to let everyone know. As for new employees, the disaster recovery plan should be part of their initial employment training.
Share your plan with critical external contacts
Obviously, preparation is critical for your internal team; however, your hardware, software, facilities, and service vendors are critical to your operations as well. Be sure you can get in touch with them—chances are you’ll need to. For example, what if you have products shipped to your office? Are your vendors willing and able to ship them elsewhere? Most likely, they will bend over backwards to assist you, but to do so, they must know the plan first.
Designate an alternative site of operation
The ability to communicate with employees and customers until your business is up and running is paramount to any disaster preparedness plan. Do you have another location where key employees can conduct critical business functions in the event of a disaster? Ideally, you would identify at least two separate locations, one of which is at least an hour away from your current location.
Review your current backup plan
Disasters tend to strike when they are least expected, instantly wiping out a significant amount of data. Small businesses say that data is their most valuable asset, but unfortunately, many small businesses only back up files once or twice a month, a procedure that can result in tremendous loss. Online backup is the best way to ensure you get all your files back easily in the event of a disaster.
Back up your data constantly
Make sure you find a service that works automatically and continually in the background. Doing so can do more than save you money; it can literally save your company. Look for a service that transmits your protected files offsite to secure severs to ensure your files safe from theft, fire, spills, power spikes, power outages, physical accidents and just about anything else that might happen in your office.
Make a plan to recover your files
The internet is not always available. A good data backup service should be prepared to assist you if this is the case. Should you find yourself in this situation, you will want to have a service that can ship you a portable hard drive containing all of your backed up files. It’s also critical that the service offers high-caliber customer support so that you can be walked through the process of recovering your files.
Establish a chain of command
What if your top executives are unreachable during the time of disaster? In addition to an offsite crisis meeting and work place(s) for employees, it is vital to select and train additional employees to perform emergency operations in their absence.
Do a dry run
Practice makes perfect. While it may generate some eye-rolling, companies that walk through a simulation have a far greater chance of successful recovery. Employees are less likely to panic when they are familiar with the plan. And even more importantly, a simulation allows flaws to be noticed—and fixed—before disaster strikes.
The plan outlined here is do-it-yourself, but it may make sense for you to bring on professionals for some elements, such as IT and security – and remember that Carbonite’s SMB team is always available to small businesses as a resource. With affordable, annual pricing, Carbonite is friendly to your SMB budget. You can try Carbonite free for 30 days here.