Disaster Preparedness: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

July 6th, 2010

You know you need to ensure your business is prepared for a disaster. You know technology can fail. You know that a fire, hurricane, flood or something else can happen to interrupt your business operations. But are you actually ready for disaster, whether it's man made or natural?

Companies avoid planning for disaster. It's human nature. But when you think about what it would cost your small or mid-sized business to be without power or IT systems for 24 hours, it's just good business sense to plan for the worst. To keep your business up and running if disaster strikes, you'll need to avoid the following common mistakes.

1. Put it off until tomorrow.
With the amount of day-to-day "fire fighting" that most growing businesses do, it's easy to procrastinate on tackling less urgent projects like disaster recovery and security planning. A recent study conducted by IBM of more than 1,200 mid-size companies confirms this. Nearly 70 percent say that IT disaster recovery capabilities are essential, but less than 25 percent are confident that what they have today is complete. The good news is that today's affordable and feature-rich software, server and storage technologies mean that businesses can start small, establish a base level of disaster recovery, and build on it over time.

2. Only big companies can afford it.
Not true. Business continuity planning is not a luxury that only mega-businesses can afford. Without any business continuity structure in place, a small or mid-size business risks losing revenue it really can't afford to lose. One area often overlooked is continuous data access. Without it, you can't serve your customers or partners. Backup storage within your primary place of business is a good place to start. But if there's a power outage, you can still ensure continuous availability as long as you have replicated information in an offsite location-ideally far away from where you do business. Today's new hosting models and cost-effective offsite backup and recovery mean that peace of mind is available for companies of any size.

3. It's an IT problem.
Protecting your data and getting your systems online again is crucial, but don't forget about the people who use those systems. When a tornado touches down or a blackout shuts down the city, your employees need to know what to do. Make sure your plans address employee communications, working remotely, and prioritizing the employees that need access to your core business systems first.

4. Plan only for natural disasters.
People often picture big, headline-making events like floods or hurricanes when they think of disaster recovery. But a complete business continuity plan also anticipates malicious disasters and productivity killers like spam, computer viruses or data theft.
A regional manufacturer found itself inundated with spam and e-mail viruses that took each employee an average of 20 minutes a day to remove. With only minor modifications to its e-mail servers and firewalls, the manufacturer took advantage of an e-mail filtering solution hosted offsite. Now spam and virus e-mail no longer reach the company's network, giving the company back an estimated 2,500 hours of labor per year.

5. You have to do it yourself.
Only if you want to. You can start by carrying out a basic risk assessment and appointing an employee to write a simple, commonsense policy. Go to a website likethe Small Business Administration's for tips on disaster preparedness (www.sba.gov ). But if you find this whole subject too overwhelming or time-consuming, get help. Bring in a local services provider to help you develop and implement a plan and any processes or IT capabilities you need. Stop for a minute and think about your business from the 50,000 foot view. How would you fare in a disaster? A business continuity plan is like life insurance; you hope you never have to use it, but if you do, it's invaluable.

Article by Laura Leites

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