No one really likes to plan for the worst, but the hard reality is that disasters can strike businesses at any time. Data loss and downtime can impact a company financially and cause other serious consequences. Unfortunately, something as insignificant as an employee opening an infected email can create havoc company-wide.
Not all disasters are man-made, however. Natural disasters and other severe weather events can also result in data loss and downtime, and they seem to be occurring more frequently. In fact, 2018 was the fourth-costliest year since 1980 in terms of insured losses, according to reinsurance company Munich RE.
Regardless of the cause, very few businesses can survive a long period of downtime without access to critical files and software or the ability to conduct normal business operations. Small businesses are especially vulnerable to disasters. Yet, according to a study by Nationwide, 68% of small businesses have no written disaster recovery plan in place. And, about half of those polled said it would take them at least three months to recover from a natural disaster—which is too long in many cases for a small business to survive.
So, why don’t more businesses plan for potential disasters? Maybe they just don’t think it will happen to them. But if you talk to any company that has experienced some type of natural disaster or man-made data incident, they’ll most likely tell you to get prepared ASAP. If your company doesn’t have a disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place, it’s time to get one.
Fail to Plan? Then Plan to Fail
One of the great challenges with catastrophic events is that they can come from any number of sources, so business owners must make sure they’re prepared for all types of disasters. Preparation is the only way to avert disasters and ensure your operations will continue without significant disruption.
A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a documented, structured approach with instructions for responding to unplanned incidents. This step-by-step plan also consists of the precautions that need to be taken to minimize the effects of a disaster so the organization can more quickly resume mission-critical functions.
A DRP should include:
- Data Backup & Replication
It is vital that business data is backed up to an off-site backup location or to the cloud. While you may have on-site data backup redundancies in place, an off-site plan is no longer an option, it is a necessity. Not only do today’s cloud solutions offer convenience and address security concerns, they also enable ease of data recovery if something goes wrong so that you can recover and rebound more quickly.
- Assessment of Inventory
Make a list of all hardware and process-critical software applications, including information for technical and customer support for each item on the list.
Develop a plan for protecting physical assets against natural elements such as flooding.
- Prioritizization of Activities & Processes
Define which applications are most critical to access in the event of an emergency and prioritize steps in order of importance to get your business back up and running. Determine the applications you cannot be without and which applications could be pushed off for a day or two before they become a serious problem.
- A Disaster Recovery Plan Team
Create a disaster recovery plan team and outline which member is responsible for each aspect of a recovery, including communications with your most important clients and vendors. The DRP team should be updated as employees change and shift roles within the organization.
- A Remote Strategy
Perhaps the most important element of a DRP is having a remote strategy for continuing operations. This means having a backup worksite for your employees or a way to allow them to work remotely. This may include virtualization of desktops and critical business applications, as well as some type of communication/collaboration technology such as videoconferencing or instant messaging.
A DRP should not be a static document. It should be revisited and reviewed throughout the year and updated or changed as needed to meet shifting business objectives. Having a DRP in place allows you to protect your business and data, no matter what disasters you encounter.
Consider a Partner
One more solution to consider is disaster recovery as a service, or DRaaS. This is becoming increasingly popular as companies choose to rely on data backup and recovery experts to help them recover after a storm or incident. While a DRP still needs to be in place, DRaaS helps companies create and implement these plans and also provides total system backup, allowing business to continue, uninterrupted, in the event of a system failure. DRaaS essentially creates a secondary infrastructure for storing all your information.
In the event of a disaster, DRaaS becomes the primary environment for operations while the main system is being repaired. This configuration can also be used as a workable gateway to test cloud computing and to replicate any system that is housed in the main, on-premise environment so your applications and data are always accessible.
There are several benefits to DRaaS beyond the obvious advantage of securing business data. For one, a cloud-based design ensures continuous backup and instant availability, so if a physical site becomes even temporarily unavailable, there’s no lag time in accessing that information from the cloud. Having a third-party expert handle your DRP also frees up your IT team, allowing them to focus on their day-to-day activities while giving you confidence that your data is being secured by someone with a great deal of experience in this area.
No matter how you decide to implement a DRP, do not procrastinate in getting it in place. According to the Federal Emergency Management Administration, one in four businesses never reopens after a disaster. But those who prepare certainly have the best chance of survival.
In the chaotic wake of a natural disaster or a major security breach, you’ll be grateful your business has a plan in place.