When the subject of natural or man-made disaster comes up, a common and very human reaction is to assume, “It won’t happen to me.”
Unfortunately for many small business owners and IT managers, this is an assumption they’ve lived to regret. Each year, according to the Business Continuity Institute, about one in five businesses faces a major disruption such as data loss due to power outage or a natural disaster that destroys an office.
Yes, the consequences can be devastating. And, at a time when IT systems and networks have become indispensable to nearly every small business, a major IT disruption can result in a crippling revenue loss, an array of additional expenses, a major productivity drop, delayed collections, and even a damaged reputation that weakens vital relationships with customers, suppliers, partners, creditors, and others.
The solution is proper planning: a disaster preparedness and data recovery strategy with an implementation plan that ensures that the business survives and recovers from even the most severe occurrence. Four key issues deserve special attention.
Performing a Business Impact Analysis
A business impact analysis allows you to identify both tangible and intangible effects on business processes, functions, or departments over time. The analysis allows management to identify recovery priorities and develop an effective recovery strategy. The result of the process also supplies the data to help define an appropriate disaster recovery program budget.
For IT systems and networks, a business impact analysis is invaluable in two ways.
1. It identifies business-critical applications and the systems they run on.
2. It finds areas of vulnerability within the environment to address.
Never Underestimate the Importance of Backup
It doesn’t take an earthquake, hurricane, or fire to destroy data critical to your business’ success: a new virus, a leaky roof, or employee mistake can do the job. A comprehensive strategy for backing up critical data is a must for today’s small businesses.
The most effective strategies address:
1. Data Prioritization: identifying and deciding which data cannot be lost under any circumstances
2. Testing: Regular checks to make sure backup and restoration will work properly
3. Off-site Storage: storing tapes off-site and taking other steps to quarantine disaster before it happens
Work on the Plan as a “Living Document”
Once a disaster preparedness and recovery plan has been researched, designed, developed, implemented, and tested there is a common desire to declare the job done. However, as your business evolves, your IT environment must also evolve. Your IT team should continually develop new strategies to grow your disaster recovery plan.
Seeking Outside Help
It makes sense for small businesses to turn to outside IT service providers to help address disaster recovery requirements.
1. Most small businesses don’t have the in-house staff to conduct a thorough assessment, select the right solutions or continuously upgrade them to keep pace with their business requirements.
2. An outside firm can evaluate business practices without bias.
3. As specialists, they have experience with a variety of approaches and effective solutions.
Look for an organization with:
– A strategic perspective that considers your company’s key business goals
– A comprehensive assessment and solution development methodology
– Sufficient experience working with your industry
– The ability to provide remote managed services
– Proven expertise both in disaster preparedness and disaster recovery