Start the Plan
Howard Ruff, author of numerous financial planning books has been quoted as saying "It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark”. His reference was to financial planning, but the same notion applies perfectly when it comes to planning for disasters. Many business spend a great deal of time planning on how to grow their business while ignoring what might happen if they ever experience a major disaster such as a fire or hurricane.
Don’t feel alone if you don’t have a plan. According to industry statistics, despite major disasters like Hurricane Sandy that struck the east coast in 2012, less than one-half of all businesses say they have a disaster recovery plan. When asked, most of those businesses with disaster plans said they had not tested their plan. Not testing the plan is almost like not having one.
The consequences of not having a plan for a disaster are sobering. The numbers vary depending upon the source, but according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 25 percent of all businesses do not reopen after a major disaster.
So where is the starting point? Unfortunately, this typically is not a problem to be solved in one short meeting over coffee. Planning for disaster recovery requires time and resources and it needs become an integral part of the business plan. The following points will give a good "jumping off" point.
1. Develop Your Plan. The first step in developing your plan is to bring together the people most impacted by a major disaster. Start asking the question "What do we do if?” For example, how would we know what our customers owe us? What do we do if we can’t process invoices or pay bills? How do we notify our customers and what do we tell them? How do we order product? Is our data protected?
2. The next part of the plan is to Assign Responsibilities. Who will get the message about the disaster out to our customers? This person will be responsible for emailing, calling, texting or faxing every customer to let them know what has happened.
Assigning someone to develop an inventory of what the business owns is important for insurance claims.
Give someone the responsibility of scanning important documents. This will include insurance documents, tax returns, payroll records, etc. Scanning doesn't have to be expensive. The Neat Company markets an inexpensive scanner that is simple to use and quick to setup.
Assign someone the task of installing a backup product, like Carbonite, to automatically backup everything that is on the PC. Carbonite's backup is simple, easy, continuous and in the event of a disaster the company would have access to all of the important records.
As part of the plan, make sure that company data is not only backed up, but a copy is stored off-site. This should go beyond the basic backup that Carbonite performs. This backup should be a restore drive/mirror image (a copy of the server drive with all software and files) that could be installed into any server. Most software providers are also providing cloud based systems that eliminate servers and give access to company data through the internet.
3. Work Your Plan. After all the time invested in growing the business, it's best to make sure that the new plan functions the way it was envisioned. In the beginning this may mean regular meetings to check on progress and to see if an area of the plan needs to be adjusted. The point of working the plan is to make sure that progress is being made, documents are being scanned, data is being backed up and the proper procedures are in place.
4. Audit Your Plan. The final step is to periodically audit the plan. It's great to have the backups automated but more than one company has backed up their data only to realize, at the most unfortunate time, that the data could not be retrieved. In other words, test your backups.
Make sure that all needed reports can be found easily and quickly. This might look like asking the person in charge of the financial reports for a specific purchase journal from last year. Regardless of the process that is tested, the point is to make sure that the plan is functioning properly.
None of us know when disaster will strike. We don’t know when the next earthquake, tornado or hurricane will hit, but history has proven to us that they do happen and they will happen again. Being prepared will significantly improve any companies chances of recovery.
Just remember what Howard Ruff said "It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark”