Your business can never be too prepared for any disaster or situation, such as hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, power outages, theft, and other unforeseen circumstances. Having a business recovery and contingency plan is one of the most important steps to safeguarding your employees, business, and critical physical and digital assets.
While having the proper precautions are important and necessary, it’s just the first part of the process. Organizations must also test their disaster recovery plan to ensure proper execution. Partnering with a managed services provider (MSP) is your first line of defense in creating and refining your plan for an actual emergency.
According to a 2018 study conducted by IT industry professional networking tool Spiceworks, while most organizations reported having a disaster recovery plan, only 34 percent actually tested it once per quarter. The study found that “29 percent test their plan just once a year, 14 percent test only every couple of years, and 23 percent of organizations never test their DR plan at all.”
Without proper testing, organizations are at higher risk for financial and data loss, downtime, and even complete shutdowns. Even more alarming, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), approximately 25 percent of businesses never reopen following a disaster.
With these statistics in mind, it’s important to have a regularly tested disaster plan for added assurance and reduced risk.
Learn more about the steps and best practices your organization can take to combat any disaster situation.
1. Implement & Test an Emergency Operations Plan
Consistent communication is key to effective disaster preparedness. If employees, customers, and partners cannot reach you during an emergency, it leaves uncertainty and leads to confusion and communication breakdowns.
Designate a point person to lead the communications team. This group will facilitate communications, questions, and next steps, such as:
- Who is responsible for managing and operating the contingency plan?
- If the building isn’t safe to enter, can employees work from home, remotely, or from another off-site location?
- Is there an available emergency kit?
- Is important customer data stored in the cloud or off-site?
- Can we easily locate insurance policies and other internal business documents?
- How will effective post-disaster communication be delivered to employees, customers, and partners?
- Is all employee contact information updated and accessible?
2. Keep Lines of Communication Open
Collecting feedback and discussion from employees and management reinforces plan comfort levels. Consistent communication also facilitates additional ideas and suggestions.
Consistent communication is key to effective disaster preparedness.
While we receive advanced warnings about certain weather events, such as hurricanes and blizzards, Mother Nature is often unpredictable, underscoring the need for a reliable and accessible communications plan. Consider how the remnants of Hurricane Ida pounded the Northeast, catching many people off-guard. Having readily available information before, during, and after a disaster is critical and can help limit significant losses.
Once everyone is deemed safe following the emergency event, it’s recommended to inform customers and partners of your readiness and availability for help. This can be done through phone calls, emails, press releases, and social media posts, among other forms of communication.
It's also important to share if your organization is operating with reduced resources and limited hours. Adding a regularly updated emergency notice to your website’s homepage can keep employees, customers, and partners informed as repairs, restorations, and other post-disaster activities are completed.
3. Add a Technology Infrastructure Backup & Recovery Process
You can never be too prepared or careful when it comes to risk assessment. While no one wants to think their entire technology infrastructure will be affected by any disaster, it’s best to stay ahead of the curve.
An MSP can help prepare for worst- and best-case scenarios. Adding the following protection measures will undoubtedly alleviate operation downtime:
- Understand how your most important infrastructures and accompanying elements would be affected by a natural disaster.
- Consider a third-party SaaS backup solution as an additional protection layer.
- Design a tiered power shutdown for crucial IT components.
- Add cloud or off-site data backup solutions.
- Establish a communication plan with customers and partners during and after the event.
- Discuss how damaged hardware, software, and equipment will be subsequently delivered and implemented.
- Consider adding VoIP or cloud-based phone systems for call rerouting and forwarding.
4. Review Insurance Coverage &
Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Along with periodically reviewing your insurance coverage, SLAs, licensing, and other important documents, it’s important to ensure you have the most updated and comprehensive coverage possible.
Your insurance company can assess and discuss your current policy and determine any coverage gaps. If you’re in a low-lying area or flood zone, consider adding flood insurance. Purchasing additional insurance that protects off-site assets, such as those held by key vendors and alliance partners, is also a wise decision.
For SLAs, ensure what type of support your MSP will provide should you incur disaster damages. This document also outlines what each party is responsible for regarding unforeseen circumstances. If you’re unsure, it’s best to discuss with your MSP.
5. Ensure Physical Asset Protection
Protecting employees, data, and software products are all included plan items. This also comprises physical assets, such as hardware, office equipment, and other important devices. While it’s recommended to store and backup data at an off-site location, this might not be feasible for physical utilities and other equipment.
According to online disaster protection information hub DisasterSafety.org, consider a few of these steps for cohesive protection.
- Cover and protect documents and electrical equipment from leaks due to damaged windows, doors, and roofs.
- Move computers and other essential devices to higher levels and away from large windows, and other open areas.
- Secure any heavy or fragile items.
- Consider flood-proofing if your building is in a flood zone, or prone to leaks and water damage.
- Consult an electrician to ensure wires and other outlets are away from potential water damage.
- Invest in a backup generator or other type of alternative power source.
- As aforementioned, consider purchasing flood insurance for added protection. Consult the FEMA Flood Map Service Center for more information.
Keeping Your Business Safe & Sound
With proper planning and safeguards, you’ll be granted added peace of mind to maintain and continue business operations with minimal disruption.
By implementing backup and data recovery, cloud storage, and other alternative measures, you significantly reduce the chances of your business and its assets becoming a casualty of the next disaster.