17 Mar 2011

When disaster strikes

With flooding, earthquakes and tsunamis all over the news, you’d be forgiven for thinking 2011 was ‘Year of the Disaster’—and we’ve only just made it through the first quarter!

As you send your prayers and any financial assistance you can spare to those recovering from these adverse events, also extend your thoughts to what would happen to your business if disaster struck—not necessarily dramatic physical threats like the natural disasters we’ve seen this year, rather any unforeseen event that might hinder your business.

Unfortunately, many small businesses do not plan for unforeseen disruptions. People tend to think ‘it won’t happen to me’, so I hope some of this year’s events have shown it can happen, and that it can happen to you. Make an unforeseen event a foreseen one and plan your recovery.

So what’s involved in a disaster recovery plan?

Understand what’s at stake. What would happen if your business closed its doors for an extended period? Would you lose time, money, staff, momentum on a project, your reputation? Your answer should give you clear motivation for forming a plan.

Identify threats to your business. This can be wide ranging, from a stolen laptop to an office fire. Some risks will be more likely than others, and some will have a higher impact than others. Focus on those high on the risk matrix of both likelihood and impact.

Develop a plan to protect your most precious operations. Understand what it will take to get a system back up and running should it fail to get back to business-as-usual as soon as possible. This may involve developing policies; for example, implementing a backup policy so you can access the last saved files with ease should something happen, or a security policy to safeguard passwords or ensure staff working from home have access to a secure network.

If your business is likely to go belly-up because you can’t access your data and systems, think about cloud computing, which mitigates that threat.

Test your plan. Every quarter or six months test your plan to see whether it would still hold in the event of a disaster. Cover off any additional risks that might have popped up in the meantime.

Don’t think of a disaster plan as a pain; it is there to get your business back on track quickly. Has your business ever been saved by a disaster recovery plan?