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7 Key Elements of a Business Disaster Recovery Plan

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The following article was featured in Southwest Florida Business Today‘s June issue:

Hurricane season is upon us and while we’ve been pretty lucky the past few years, the threat of a major storm is still looming. While you don’t necessarily need to start boarding up our windows or raiding Publix for water and batteries, you do need to start thinking proactively about how you’re preparing your business for a potential major hurricane. In the past hurricanes have left businesses down for a few days or weeks, cutting out phone service, electric and wiping out servers and workstations. Ensuring that your assets, data and hardware are protected is only part of a disaster recovery plan – the rest is determining a process for how quickly you can be back up and running. Rather than scrambling to put the pieces back together after a major storm, it’s time to put a plan in place. Here are the seven key elements of a business disaster recovery plan.

Communication plan and role assignments.
When it comes to a disaster, communication is of the essence. A plan is essential because it puts all employees on the same page and ensures clearly outlines all communication. Documents should have all updated employee contact information and employees should understand exactly what their role is in the days following the disaster. Assignments like setting up workstations, assessing damage, redirecting phones and other tasks will need assignments if you don’t have some sort of technical resource to help you sort through everything.

Plan for your equipment.
It’s important you have a plan for how to protect your equipment when a major storm is approaching. You’ll need to get all equipment off the floor, moved into a room with no windows and wrapped securely in plastic so ensure that no water can get to the equipment. It’s obviously best to completely seal equipment to keep it safe from flooding, but sometimes in cases of extreme flooding this isn’t an option.

Data continuity system.
As you create your disaster recovery plan, you’ll want to explore exactly what your business requires in order to run. You need to understand exactly what your organization needs operationally, financially, with regard to supplies, and with communications. Whether you’re a large consumer business that needs to fulfill shipments and communicate with their customers about those shipments or a small business to business organization with multiple employees – you should document what your needs are so that you can make the plans for backup, business continuity and have a full understanding of the needs and logistics surrounding those plans.

Backup check.
Make sure that your backup is running and include running an additional full local backup on all servers and data in your disaster preparation plan. Run them as far in advance as possible and make sure that they’re backed up to a location that will not be impacted by the disaster. It is also prudent to place that backup on an external hard drive that you can take with you offsite, just as an additional measure should anything happen.

Detailed asset inventory.
In your disaster preparation plan, you should have a detailed inventory of workstations, their components, servers, printers, scanners, phones, tablets and other technologies that you and your employees use on a daily basis. This will give you a quick reference for insurance claims after a major disaster by providing your adjuster with a simple list (with photos) of any inventory you have.

Pictures of the office and equipment (before and after prep).
In addition to the photos that you should have of individual inventory items, you’ll want to take photos of the office and your equipment to prove that those items were actively in use by your employees and that you took the necessary diligence to move your equipment out of harms way to prepare for the storm.

Vendor communication and service restoration plan.
After a storm passes, you’ll want to begin running as quickly as possible. Make sure that you include vendor communication as part of your plan. Check with your local power provided to assess the likelihood for power surges or outages while damage is repaired in the area. You’ll also want to include checking with your phone and internet providers on restoration and access.

These considerations are a great foundation for a complete disaster recovery plan, but make sure that you are paying attention to the details within each section of your plan. The logistics of testing backups and performing as many backups as possible before the storm are also important in addition to the grainy details of how you’ll communicate with vendors, account for your assets and ensure that you’re back up and running as quickly as possible. If you’re a little overwhelmed in considering these details you can engage an external resource to help you put a disaster plan in place so that you’re prepared for any storms that might come our way for hurricane season.