Are You Prepared for a Disaster

As we recently celebrated Halloween, I wanted to take a minute to point out a scary fact. Even though every business knows they should have a disaster plan, very few do.

A disaster could strike your business at any time, in any form. Without a good disaster recovery plan, it could take so long to get going again that your business wouldn't stand a chance.

Here are seven simple steps to writing a simple but powerful disaster recovery plan:

  1. What Could Happen?

    This is the most creative part of the process. You need to imagine every possible setback that could affect your business. It's easy to think of the big things, like fire and burglary. But often it's the small unexpected setbacks that can do the most lasting damage. Who are your key team members, and how would you replace them? How is your data secured? Which suppliers are you most reliant on? What if you couldn't get into your premises for a week?

    Make a list of everything that could happen, and then split events into 3 or 4 relevant categories according to their impact (a major catastrophe, minor incident, etc).

  2. What Will It Mean?

    Some of these events will bring your business to its knees; others will just be an irritation that could affect your cash flow. Working out the likely impact of events is essential, as this will affect the quality of your recovery planning.

  3. Advanced Preparation

    For each category of emergency, put together a rough idea of what you can do. For example, if you are denied access to your premises for any reason, identify an alternative place you can work from. Or if your main supplier goes bust, where else can you get supplies? Be creative and flexible, but also realistic and think things through.

    Some of the items you identify will need immediate action. If you spot a risk from having all your data stored in only one location, then sort out online or offsite backup immediately. Don't be tempted to add it to the "things I really must get round to" list, as you could regret putting it off down the line.

  4. Plan Clear Communications

    A vital element of any disaster plan is to ensure everyone knows what's happening. Make a list of people you will need to speak to when a problem crops up. Not just the obvious ones like your team members, customers, and suppliers. What about your bank? If they know you are in a difficult situation, they may extend overdraft facilities.

    Ensure it is clear who should represent the business to the emergency services and media. And who should do it if that person is unavailable?

    The easiest way to communicate a message to a large number of people quickly is through your website. Ensure you can add a message or edit your site remotely, even if your normal computers have been lost. Access to email will also be critical.

  5. Write a Plan

    The key here is KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid. Your plan should be short, to the point, and easily understood by anyone who has to execute it. It's impossible to plan for every eventuality. So your plan should be a set of clear guidelines and resources for the person tasked with keeping your business running.

  6. Keep Multiple Copies of the Plan

    As you are watching your building burn down, it won't make you feel better to know that the only copy of your emergency plan is inside. Keep copies in safe places in multiple locations, including your home and maybe even in a safety deposit box at the bank.

  7. Review Semi-Annually

    Like any plan, your disaster recovery plan needs to be reviewed regularly. Growing businesses change regularly, and an out-of-date plan can be as much use as no plan. Schedule reviews in your management meetings to ensure they happen.

    Taking these steps to prevent the collapse of your business, should something catastrophic happen, will allow you to minimize damage and ensure your business doesn't collapse.

    These steps are crucial for any business to take and you must take these steps today!