Hurricane Katrina is probably the best source of disaster survival experiences in recent times. Businesses lost not just their electricity supply, their premises, their communications links and their transport – they lost their entire city and years later much of it is yet to be rebuilt.
Here are a few considerations based on recent experience that should be incorporated into a company’s disaster recovery plan. They naturally assume the worst – they have to, but as history has shown, a pessimist is never disappointed.
- 1 Store data backups offsite
- 2 Back up mobile computing devices
- 3 Copies of software are needed
- 4 Back up the office location
- 5 Plan for people
- 6 Move or protect equipment
- 7 Use the Internet as a communications link
- 8 Implement a DMS
- 9 An alliance can be the answer
- 10 Insurance is part of the planning
Store data backups offsite
Backups of corporate data should be made regularly and stored offsite. Backup data can be transferred via the Internet or other means of electronic transmission to a distant electronic storage facility and will remain available for easy recovery.
Most businesses will also keep physical copies of backup tapes, and these need to be stored as far offsite as possible. Locking them in a filing cabinet at the office is insufficient protection.
Back up mobile computing devices
Mobile computing devices – laptops, iPhones with memory capacity – should be backed up regularly. If valuable information disappears with them it can be catastrophic for business survival.
Copies of software are needed
The loss of PCs and servers with all their data when disaster strikes is bad enough, but it also means a loss of the applications with which the business does its business.
Restoring these applications means having access to replacements from the manufacturer or arranging for duplicates to be kept in a safe place that you can access when needed.
It may be possible to pay for legal copies of the applications used by the business to be retained at the software manufacturers’ premises.
Back up the office location
Most businesses need a physical office to work from. If that office is destroyed or uninhabitable new premises must be found.
Suitable premises with adequate facilities to which the businesses can be migrated on short notice should be identified.
Plan for people
There’s no backup for lost human capital but plans can be made for the replacement of key personnel in case disaster strikes.
There are agencies that specialize in providing experienced staff for almost every industry, and some functions such as payroll and HR can be outsourced until the business has recovered.
Move or protect equipment
Some impending disasters provide preliminary warnings of their arrival. It’s possible in such cases to move all the computers and other electronic storage devices off-site until the danger has passed.
Manufacturing equipment is usually too difficult to move, but a disaster plan can incorporate ways of protecting equipment to mitigate damage.
Use the Internet as a communications link
The ability to access the Internet is the key to communications following a disaster. Even a company’s website can be migrated to a server elsewhere and continue functioning.
Wireless communications networks are more likely to function during and after a disaster than the hard-wired variety.
Implement a DMS
A DMS or document management system scans and stores all documents in an electronic format so they can be backed-up for later access and retrieval using the best possible methods.
DMS costs are coming down all the time, and can now be considered from the perspective of both ongoing operational efficiency and as an element of business survival.
An alliance can be the answer
Explore an alliance with a related business in another city in which each agrees to ‘host’ the other firm in the event of a disaster. The details should be formalized in a contract between the two firms and suitable financial arrangements incorporated that suit both parties.
Insurance is part of the planning
Unfortunately many of the firms affected by Hurricane Katrina found that insurance can be a tricky thing and the policies have to specifically cover all situations or they can be rendered useless.
It’s a job for a specialist; engage the services of an expert to be sure the business is suitably covered.
Disaster planning isn’t easy, but unless a company prepares before disaster strikes it may never be able to open its doors when the event has passed.