Business disasters include major environmental events like hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and raging fires, as well as internal incidents such equipment failure, hacking, malware and malicious events. Companies and organizations prepare for these by creating disaster recovery plans that detail actions to take and processes to follow to resume mission-critical functions quickly and without major losses in revenues or business.
While loss of physical space can be catastrophic, buildings can be replaced. More devastating loss occurs when businesses lose the data and technology that keeps them running. Most businesses use information technology to quickly and effectively process information, and many also maintain paper trails, whether official or unofficial. Employees use e-mail and text to communicate, but may also use hand-written notes or paper files to keep track of customers. Orders and payments may be transmitted via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), or may be received and sent via snail mail. Desktop computers, laptops and wireless devices are used by employees to create, process, manage and communicate information. But, most organizations, even the most technologically advanced, can't totally eliminate paper. Paper arrives daily in the mail, and older records may be maintained in paper files.
This mix of digital, paper and technology can make disaster recovery complicated. That's why every organization should have a viable plan for disaster recovery as well as a business continuity plan. A Disaster Recovery Plan details everything you need to do to get your business back to where it was before the disastrous event occurred, while a Business Continuity Plan details how you will continue to operate until all data and systems are restored. Both are essential.
However, when we talk about disaster recovery in context with business continuity, a lot of business owners, especially those who own small to mid-sized businesses, in geographic areas that aren’t prone to natural disasters, assume that planning for recovery from a disaster isn’t necessary for them.
Small Businesses Need a Plan Too
Businesses that rely on paper records can learn a lesson from one small business owner who quite confidently stored his paper files in the basement of his house, where he “knew” they would be safe. This worked just fine for many years…until early last spring when his teenage daughter decided to refinish an antique chest of drawers in the basement, leaving a linseed oil-soaked rag laying under a pile of rags and newspapers.
The entire family was awoken when the smoke alarm on the top floor of the house went off in the middle of the night. They and the family dog climbed out onto the porch roof and called the fire department. Luckily they were all saved, but the house sustained considerable smoke and water damage, and, in the basement, everything that wasn’t burned was ruined by water from the firemen’s hoses. Six months later, the house is still being repaired and the business owner is still trying to recreate customer files and contact information, job bids and estimates, tax records and more.
It doesn’t matter whether you have paper files stored in your basement at home or digital files stored on a server in your carpeted office, fires happen, pipes break, paper gets lost and cyber-crime can hit any business. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration 25% of businesses that are affected by a disaster fail to reopen. This is why it’s important for every business, no matter its size to have recovery and continuity plans in place.
Developing a Plan
Businesses and organizations of all sizes create and manage large volumes of information. Some information is vital to the survival and continued operation of the business. The loss of information, whether paper-based or electronic could be significant. A plan for recovery and restoration is essential. Priorities and recovery time objectives should be developed and recovery strategies should be detailed for restoration of hardware, applications, information and data (whether it currently exists in paper or digital format) in time to meet the needs of recovery.Your plan should include provisions for continuing operations such as:
o How the business will continue to operate
o How files and important information will be protected
o How the business will operate from remote or temporary locations, if necessary
o Long term crucial strategies that are needed to ensure that the business maintains stability and continues to be profitable
In today’s complex business world, both disaster recovery and business continuity plans are nearly as important as business and marketing plans. Do you have a business continuity plan in place?