Is Your Business Prepared for a Natural Disaster?

Is Your Business Prepared for a Natural Disaster?

Reprinted from the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, January 2018 Business Voice.

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Recent times have shown that natural disasters occur with little to no notice, and will continue to do so. In 2017, we suffered through hurricanes, earthquakes, raging fires in California, and even criminally caused disasters like the horrific shooting on the Las Vegas Strip.

If your business isn’t prepared for a disaster, you’re at risk and could find yourself with a crippling long-term outage, or even critical data that is lost forever.

This article will help ensure your business is able to respond to and recover from the devastating effects of a natural disaster. And while Southern Nevada is fortunate to be devoid of most natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, these concepts apply to more common disasters including fire, theft, and flooding of your office due to plumbing disasters.

Preparing for a natural disaster begins with creating a comprehensive disaster recovery (DR) plan. It’s not difficult to find a good disaster recovery template to work from, and the goal of DR planning is simple – to decide upon the actions you’ll take in the event of a disaster ahead of time, rather than trying to figure it out in the heat of a crisis. A good DR plan is a well-structured document that’s easy to understand and follow, so you can restore business functionality as quickly as possible. Additional objectives include:

  • Ensure all employees fully understand their duties when a DR plan is invoked.
  • Ensure operational policies will be followed when a DR plan is invoked.
  • Ensure contingency arrangements are cost-effective.
  • Understand the DR capabilities of key customers, vendors, and any other organizations your business relies on.

A disaster is stressful enough without having to figure out what you’re going to do about all of your business commitments, including those to your clients, vendors, and employees. A good DR plan relies heavily on participation from your information technology (IT) department, but should be overseen and driven by the operations department. Some of the key elements include:

  • Key personnel contact information, and notification call tree.
  • External contacts, including the property owner, power company, telecom carrier, etc.
  • A communication plan for employees, customers, vendors, and other key organizations you rely upon.
  • A plan for engaging with the media to ensure accurate communication, while avoiding unnecessary adverse publicity.
  • An alternate place for employees to work if the primary place of business is unusable.
  • A schedule to regularly review and update the plan; DR plans can become out of date quickly.
  • Plan document storage; since the nature of a disaster is hard to anticipate, typically a hard copy and an electronic copy on CD are stored in a secure location, as well as given to each

Of course, IT plays a prominent role in DR planning. The IT department should be able to provide to management both the recovery point objective (RPO) and the recovery time objective (RTO). RPO refers to the maximum period in which data might be lost due to a major incident, while RTO refers to the targeted duration of time within which a business process will be restored after a disaster. IT must test their backup systems to ensure their contingency plans work and are realistic. By understanding the risks and actual time frames to recover from a disaster, businesses can make well-informed decisions on the amount of money they want to spend to mitigate the appropriate level of risk.

Cloud technologies offer incredibly effective, low cost options for disaster recovery. Microsoft Azure, for instance, offers Azure Site Recovery, whereby your critical systems can be up and running in a matter of hours in a data center outside of your geographical location.

Small businesses tend to overlook the full impact that loss of data from a natural disaster can have. Carbonite, commissioning Wakefield Research, conducted a survey of small businesses in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut one year after Hurricane Sandy had discovered that two-thirds still had not created a disaster plan. The survey also revealed that, on average, businesses lose $2,976 per day if they are unable to conduct business due to data loss.

According to datarecovery.com, loss of data for a business may not be covered by their insurance policy. Newer policies especially have started implementing clauses that exclude data recovery services.

As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” No business is too small to create a good and effective disaster recovery plan; it’s all about rightsizing the plan for your business. member of senior management to be filed at home.

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By Jeff Grace, CEO of NetEffect, an Information Technology support company serving businesses throughout Southern Nevada. For more information, visit neteffect.com or call 702.318.7700.