Whether you have a brick-and-mortar business or have switched to a completely online and digital business strategy, there are plenty of situations that can pose existential risks to your company.
And when disaster situations do strike, you don’t want to be one of the many companies that are completely unprepared for the worst-case situation.
From a catastrophic fire to flood damage, or a major cybersecurity incident, part of your enterprise resource management efforts has to involve technology recovery strategies.
Let me show you what this involves and why it’s so important.
WHAT IS DISASTER RECOVERY PLANNING?
Disaster recovery is the term that describes how businesses recover access to their stored data and IT systems after a disruption. Many types of events, such as a cyberattack or ransomware, natural disasters, or something entirely new like the Covid-19 pandemic, can only be mitigated with careful disaster recovery planning.
With a collection of disaster recovery procedures, you won’t have to scramble to figure out how an event is impacting your IT. You revert to the guidelines and execute every disaster recovery process to get back up and running as quickly as possible.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR DISASTER RECOVERY?
Data and system recovery from disasters requires that the data will be replicated at an off-site location, which has not been affected at all.
Businesses can retrieve their data from a backup location if a server is down because of a cyberattack, equipment failure, or natural disaster. Businesses can access their data from the Cloud remotely if they have it backed up.
Depending on the location of your data, you might have a cloud disaster recovery plan as well as a separate onsite plan. Essentially, every data storage device and piece of IT equipment needs separate processes in your disaster recovery plans.
WHAT ARE THE KEY ELEMENTS OF DISASTER RECOVERY PLANS?
You need to have a plan! And that means a data recovery team to develop, implement and maintain the data recovery plan. The team will assist with communication between customers, employees, and vendors in the event of a disaster.
A data recovery plan that is effective must assess all possible hazards through a business impact analysis. The risk assessment will determine what the business needs to do to resume operations, depending on the type and extent of the disaster.
What measures will the data recovery group use to respond in case of a cyberattack?
Well, natural disasters, hardware failures, and IT security breaches will require a different approach. And each section of the disaster recovery plan needs to clearly describe the risk along with the potentially impacted systems and the solution to get you back up and running.
IDENTIFICATION AND MANAGEMENT OF CRITICAL ASSETS
A disaster recovery plan must include a complete list of all assets. This list should include all critical resources, systems, applications, and other information that is vital to the business. It is important to know step by step to be able to recover data.
It’s essentially a full inventory of every piece of technology, from smartphones to desk phones and servers to printers. Without this, a disaster recovery plan is completely useless.
BACKUP YOUR DATA
A robust disaster recovery plan must include backup strategies and procedures. It is important to know who will do the backups and how often. And you need to assign a recovery point objective to ensure fast access to the backups when you need them the most.
The business’s recovery time must be calculated by those responsible for data backups. Make sure to know how long the company can be offline after a disaster.
TESTING AND OPTIMIZATION
To protect your business from new threats, you should test and update your data recovery strategy. What this means is doing a trial run where some of your critical business operations will no longer have systems access, and you measure the response from your disaster recovery team.
This will ensure that the business can successfully navigate through any challenges in the future and achieve the best possible recovery time objective. Your team will be able to plan ahead for a response in case of a cyberattack, knowing that the actions to be taken will keep your business running.
HOW DO HACKERS, NATURAL DISASTERS, AND BREACHES AFFECT SMALL AND LARGE BUSINESSES
Strong management decisions are often the key to a company’s success. But that’s not all. How a business handles situations beyond its control can often determine whether it succeeds or fails.
Unexpected events can cause a business to fail if managers haven’t gone through a business continuity planning exercise. Another business may be able to survive natural disasters simply because it has an IT disaster recovery plan.
There are many potential threats to all businesses, large and small.
These threats can lead to devastating consequences for businesses. WEF identifies cyberattacks as the third most serious threat in the world. They also placed cyberattacks at the same level as natural disasters and extreme weather.
Unfortunately, it is true. Businesses and data can be at risk from hackers, natural disasters, local disasters, and data breaches. Cyberattacks can cause severe damage to businesses that rely on the internet, and without business impact analysis, you could be in serious trouble.
TYPES OF NATURAL CATASTROPHES
There are many kinds of natural disasters we can face. All of them could cause data loss and business disruption.
Some common examples are:
- Extreme temperatures
And each one of these could have different impacts on your ability to access critical business data and systems that you have to identify as a recovery point objective.
ALL NATURAL DISASTERS HAVE AN IMPACT
Before we get into the details of data loss from natural disasters, it is important to remember the terrible effects that these natural phenomena can have on people.
Our World in Data estimates that there are approximately 60,000 people who have died from natural disasters around the world, with earthquakes the most deadly natural disaster that can wipe out very large areas.
And while your location might not be prone to earthquakes, things like flooding, fire, or winter storms have to be part of your disaster recovery plan.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF NATURAL DISASTERS ON A BUSINESS?
Nobody is always prepared for every eventuality that can happen. An organization’s disaster recovery strategies could be disrupted by a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, tornado, or flood, if those types of events are not planned for.
It is possible that supply chains are broken down, or perhaps employees cannot reach the premises. There may be damage to equipment or facilities.
And a business must be prepared for any type of disaster, even technological. It is essential that all businesses, no matter their size, have an IT disaster recovery strategy in place. It should be a top priority on your list, no matter what industry you’re working in.
WHAT CAN A BUSINESS DO TO PREPARE FOR NATURAL DISASTERS IN THE FUTURE?
Businesses need to look at all aspects and think about how natural disasters might impact each branch or office location. This is not about having emergency supplies or planning for evacuation routes.
Businesses must also consider how to reach employees in the event of a loss of connection. All of these things need to be included in your IT disaster recovery plan, as establishing communication lines is your first priority.
Depending on what type of business you are in, your organization may need to consider how to manage its supply chain in the event that it cannot access major transit routes because of natural disasters. It is essential to have an alternative plan in case facilities are not available.
And if you can’t regain access to your premises for days, weeks, or even months, then your recovery time objective should also dictate when and where you can relocate to.
DATA LOSS AND DATA BREACHES BY HACKERS
We’re not only talking about natural disasters that can impact your business; we also need to consider technological disasters, such as hackers and data breaches, in a disaster recovery plan template.
These events can also have a significant impact on data loss, and they can be more common than natural disasters in some regions of the world. Forbes claims that hackers and cyber crimes can be more damaging to business operations than a transit strike, fire, or flood.
While there might not be immediate damage to your office and hardware, being locked out from using your IT equipment might as well mean that all your hardware is destroyed. And without data security services fully assessing your potential exposure, you could be in serious trouble.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS TIPS FOR PROTECTING YOUR SMALL BUSINESS
There are a few disaster preparedness tips for protecting your small business that you can start implementing immediately before you start formulating a formal disaster recovery strategy.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Here’s one area we find many businesses aren’t prepared for, yet they assume they are. Their simple logic is calling people on their cell phones. Sure, that generally works. But what if it doesn’t? What then? Is there a secondary option for staying in contact with employees? There needs to be as part of a good disaster recovery plan.
In times of emergencies and disaster, someone might misplace their cell phone. That thing could be gone for weeks if they need to wait for a replacement. Instead, you need a platform that allows you to instantly connect with your employees, and they can message you from any computer in the world.
Some platforms like Teams or Slack make it possible to log on and join in group messages, chats, and communications. Contacting employees via cell phone will always be your top communication method in these kinds of disaster situations, but you need at least one backup if not several.
BE PREPARED TO WORK REMOTELY
Chances are you had to work remotely during the most recent pandemic. If you were prepared, things likely went smoothly. If not, well, you probably were left scrambling, trying your best to piece things together.
A cobbled-together business is not a great way to run it, yet that was your only option. Now that you know remote work is a very real possibility, you need to prepare yourself for it in a proper disaster recovery plan.
First, look over what has worked with your remote setup and what hasn’t. What would you like to improve? You can use remote services that fully integrate into Google or Microsoft systems, making it a seamless transition to sharing data while staying in communication. It’s so much more than just a video conference through Zoom.
We can help you select the right remote work platform based not only on your business and the kind of work you do but also on your business’s size. Some platforms are better for larger, enterprise-level companies, while others are better for smaller startups.
You also need to train your employees. It doesn’t matter what kind of protocols you have in place; if they don’t know how to use the technology, it isn’t going to do much good. There is always a learning curve with these platforms, and while some will catch on right away, others won’t and will need some guidance.
But if you don’t allow for training materials in your disaster recovery plan, then you could still be scrambling to get your teams working again.
The best way to train your employees is to not only go over the software but to possibly schedule a day every few weeks where employees work from home. This allows everyone to work out the kinks and make suggestions on what works and what needs to change.
DO NOT FORGET YOUR DATA BACKUP
This is a must from the list of disaster preparedness tips. What if your place of business is flooded or goes up in a fire? Do you have backups of all your information? If not, it can send you back months, if not years.
And tracking down contracts from clients isn’t the easiest thing to do either because now you’re relying on someone else’s ability to file and save the information.
You need several data backups.
First, nearly everything needs to be saved to the Cloud. This allows you to access the data anywhere, which is highly beneficial. Now, there might be some information you’d rather have offline.
Perhaps you don’t need instant access to it, but the information is critical to your business’s mission. In this instance, you need the data to be backed up on multiple drives and stored in a data center away from your primary business site.
INVEST IN AN INTERNET PRESENCE
Maybe you have a solid brick-and-mortar location. That’s great. But what happens if you can’t go to it? Now what? Without a solid Internet presence, you’re in big trouble.
Yes, you might have turned your head on an online presence in the past, but this is for survival. Grow your social media following and allow online sales. This way, should you go to an online-only setup due to a disaster recovery situation that takes longer, you can still sell goods and services to your customers.
If you don’t have this and need to stay home, your customers won’t know where to go or how to buy from you.
PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS WITH A PROFESSIONAL IT SERVICE PROVIDER
It’s impossible to know what the future might hold. But that’s the entire point of a disaster recovery plan. It’s all about preparing for what’s unexpected. As Murphy’s Law suggests, if something can go wrong, it will go wrong.
It’s just up to you to determine what can go wrong. This is a bit of a challenge for any small business owner.
And that’s exactly where our staff here at Charlotte IT Solutions can help you determine what you need to do to protect your small business and ensure you are well taken care of, no matter what unfolds.
So, if you’d like to learn more about protecting your small business in the event of a disaster, we’re a phone call away.