Do disaster recovery planning for your business

Read today’s headlines and you’ll discover that tsunamis, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, thefts, and acts of terrorism are not rare events. Businesses throughout the world — some, perhaps, in your town — are even now struggling to recover from natural and man-made disasters. Some will pull through and thrive; others will close their doors forever.

Lacking the resources of large corporations, small businesses are especially vulnerable to disasters. Smaller firms don’t have departments dedicated to disaster recovery. They can’t rely on partners, insurance companies, or government agencies to bail them out. Some even lack basic recovery plans to steer them in the aftermath of catastrophic events. As a result, many small companies don’t survive when a fire breaks out in a warehouse or an earthquake destroys company assets.

To avoid becoming a disaster statistic, your firm should develop a comprehensive recovery plan that addresses the following factors:

  • Document protection. All critical files should be copied and stored offsite on a routine basis, either by scanning documents to digital media or transferring data to online servers. Vital backups might include general ledgers, client lists, insurance policies, contracts, and title documents. Even simple procedures, such as storing hardcopy files in fireproof safes, can help in a disaster.
  • Insurance coverage. If your business is located in a flood plain, make sure you have the necessary coverage. Review your company’s policies regularly and keep an accurate inventory of business equipment, goods held for sale, and other assets that could be destroyed in a disaster. Ensure that all important policies can be retrieved in an emergency.
  • Communication protocols. Employees should know how to maintain contact with one another during a disaster. Clients, insurance agents, attorneys, accountants and other outside parties also should have access to emergency contact information through your company website or other venues. Your disaster plan should list primary and alternate communication systems — cell phones, radios, e-mail — and should identify employees responsible for monitoring such systems.
  • Recovery procedures. Employees and managers should be trained in relevant recovery processes. They should know where to meet if evacuation becomes necessary, who is responsible for coordinating critical functions, and how to recover business data (if applicable to their position).

Developing a business disaster recovery plan shouldn’t be an afterthought. Just ask a former business owner who wasn’t prepared.

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