Many small businesses are focused on growing top line sales, developing new sales channels or products and improving profitability, rarely is developing considerations for disaster recovery at the top of the priority list. Unfortunately many small businesses learn the hard way that even having a rudimentary plan could have meant the difference between an expedient recovery and days or weeks of agonizing pain. The good news is that businesses that find themselves in unfamiliar territory can easily find an IT consulting company that provides these types of business IT services, such as Maryland based Iconic Mind, to assist with developing a proper strategy.
High-level Aspects for a Small Business Disaster Recovery Plan
Losing critical data can bring any business to a halt, whether it’s due to losing a primary network server or having a vital fiber line severed by a local construction crew. In today’s business environment, the inability to respond to customer demands and to conduct business as usual can result in the loss of customers and a significant loss in revenue. This guide is meant to assist small businesses with determining how and where to begin developing an acceptable disaster recovery plan.
Voice & Data Lines
If you are a business that relies on inbound customer calls such as a catalog business or a travel agency, the loss of voice lines will most certainly have a devastating impact on your business. Failure to have proper plans in place to reroute calls can lead to the demise of the business depending on the level of severity. This scenario is not all that uncommon, all businesses need to do is remember hurricanes Sandy and Katrina and their impact on businesses of all kind. The same is true if you are an ecommerce business and you host your own ecommerce platform, what would be the impact if you data pipes were severed.
This is an area that businesses often overlook or do not want to incur the cost of finding and implementing redundant solutions. Ask yourself how much revenue would be lost for each day that your phones were down, or if you were unable to process customer emails or customers couldn’t reach your ecommerce site. If it were down for three days, or even five days, would it do irreparable damage to your business and customer base – would that be reason enough to look at redundancy?
In the case of voice lines, small businesses have the ability to work with third party call centers for after hours and overflow situations, these service providers can also deal with your disasters. You must evaluate the expense of redundancy versus the risk to your business. In the case of email or ecommerce platforms, a down inbound data pipe can be rerouted to redundant servers. It is best to work through the proper planning and execution with an IT consulting company that specializes in these solutions, and how to execute the plan in the case of a disaster.
At some point every business experiences the loss of critical business data, but if you are prepared this is one situation that can be the least worrisome to recover from. Early in the life of a business, data is stored in multiple locations from individual laptops to small servers. This scenario is not uncommon and sets the stage for data loss that can be painful to recover from. Take these steps to minimize risk and to insure an expedient recovery.
Identify all critical business applications and the data to support these applications. These might be ecommerce platforms, a CRM package, order management system, purchasing or even manufacturing software solutions. Determine where all the data resides for each of these applications. Additionally, you will want to identify any other data that lives outside of these applications that are paramount to the day to day operations of your business, such as marketing information and financial data.
Determine how frequently each application and its associated data must be backed up as well as who is responsible for monitoring these backups to insure a backup hasn’t failed. Identify procedures for dealing with failed backups, or the need to restore files in case of an emergency.
Decide on a backup solution that suits your business needs. There are numerous backup software solutions for small businesses that automate the backup of data; some are supported online and remotely while others are performed directly on your primary business servers. Again, if you are unfamiliar with this type of software, you bring in an IT consulting company who can assess your needs and recommend the best solution. You will want your backups to be stored offsite in a safe and secure location that has accessibility 24 hours a day. By doing this you minimize the risk of complete data loss should your offices suffer a complete catastrophic loss.
Establish a procedure for dealing with the restore process in the event of data loss. Be sure that you know which employee is responsible for securing the backups and how the files will be rebuilt. Businesses should regularly test this process to insure everything runs smoothly in the event of a disaster.
Disaster planning must also scope out and address the risk of hacking and theft of vital customer data and credit card information. Unfortunately businesses cannot turn a blind eye to the efforts by hackers worldwide and their attempts to infiltrate your network and wreak havoc. Specialized IT consultants can perform full network and data audits to determine vulnerabilities and develop a thorough plan for addressing these weaknesses.
Offices & Facilities
In the event of a catastrophic loss of your offices or facilities, how will you deal with the situation? Do you have a plan in place so that each employee knows what to do? Dealing with the mechanics of voice and data recovery can be straight forward with proper planning, but dealing with the loss of offices or a distribution facility can become much harder to recover from.
Offices can be temporarily relocated, and business should have a plan for dealing with the continuity of business with offsite locations. Insure that each employee has access to this plan and fully understands the process; determine who will administer the plan and how will this be communicated to each employee. Decide who the essential employees are, and what their roles are in the first 24 to 48 hours of an emergency.
In the case of a complete loss of inventory and distribution facilities, small businesses have a much bigger problem to cope with. The single biggest action that businesses can take before a disaster strikes is to work with your insurance provider to determine the coverage necessary in the event of a total loss. Each underwriter and policy will have different terms and it is important to have the best coverage you can afford. Your policies will dictate your course of action in the event of a total loss, without the proper coverage many businesses have no choice but to permanently close the doors, which is a devastating process to the owners and employees.
Small businesses have too much to lose and can’t afford to simply do nothing; businesses must plan accordingly and put in place a disaster recovery strategy that is appropriate for the size and complexity of the business. It can seem like a daunting task for a business to take on but many IT consulting companies can perform a quick risk assessment and provide recommendations to deal with the highest priorities first. Do not risk your business or wait until something happens to deal with the situation, be proactive and think ahead, your employees and customers are counting on you.