Although the Mid-Atlantic states were largely spared from the devastating effects of Hurricane Dorian, the recent storm still serves as an important reminder of the need for effective disaster recovery and business continuity planning.

In a survey conducted just months after Hurricane Florence caused billions of dollars in damages and affected roughly a quarter of a million businesses along the East Coast last year, Nationwide Property & Casualty found that more than two-thirds of small business owners in the U.S. don’t have a written disaster recovery (DR) plan. Most said it simply isn’t a high priority for them.

That’s an incredibly risky position to take. It’s impossible to effectively protect personnel, property and technology assets during a crisis. Studies find that the survival rate for companies without a plan is only about 10 percent.

Although often regarded as interchangeable labels for the same thing, business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) planning are markedly different processes. DR is a tactical procedure focused on the recovery of technology assets such as systems, networks, applications and data. It is just one component of BC planning, which establishes how the business will keep functioning until facilities and operations are restored. This encompasses how employees will be contacted, where they will go and how they will keep doing their jobs.

Here are five basic elements every plan should address:

  1. Workplace Preparations. Evaluate your offices and make sure emergency exits, fire suppression systems and alarms are up to code. Create and practice an evacuation plan. Prepare “go bags” for taking essential tools such as laptops, phones, chargers and external drives.
  2. Emergency Communications. This should address both how to notify people during a crisis and how to maintain contact with employees, customers and suppliers afterwards. If you haven’t already, consider switching to IP-based phones that allow employees to work remotely with full phone system features.
  3. IT Asset Protection. Backup and recovery of digital assets such as applications, data, documents and intellectual property is essential to business survival. Consider cloud backup solutions for offsite replication, redundancy and automatic failover. Many cloud providers also offer DR-as-a-Service solutions that simplify the process.
  4. It is imperative to educate staff about the procedures to follow in case of a crisis. It’s a good idea to create an online intranet where recovery-related documents can be posted, maintained and regularly updated. Include a document detailing the roles and responsibilities of key personnel before, during and after an incident.
  5. Don’t wait until an actual disaster to find out if your plan will work. Testing can range from seminars and small role-playing exercises all the way up to live drills featuring a full-scale evacuation of the whole organization. Record and evaluate the event to understand what works and what needs tweaking.

Many business owners fail to prioritize such planning because they consider hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters to be unlikely occurrences. However, it’s important to remember that there are many other types of events that can be disastrous for a business. Cyberattacks, power outages and user error can also lead to catastrophic downtime and data loss.

If you don’t have a disaster recovery or business continuity plan — or if you just don’t have the time or resources to give it the attention it deserves — give SSD a call. We can analyze your disaster preparedness and help customize a plan to fit your specific needs.