Every business should have a plan for a disaster. A disaster can be large or small, impact part of a business or shut down a business in its entirety, be localized to the business itself or caused by an external event occurring in the business’ community. Long Island has experienced storms that have brought extended electrical outages and flooding. Buildings may experience fires or gas leaks or environmental issues that make them inaccessible. Whatever the cause, a business must take steps to ensure its ability to function and survive, safely, when it has been impacted by a disaster.
Developing a comprehensive plan can be difficult. Many businesses don’t address the issue at all finding the process overwhelming, time consuming and tedious. However, tackling some key areas would be better than doing nothing at all.
When a business experiences an outage, you would like to easily contact those affected. Copies of contact lists should be maintained offsite and distributed to the appropriate personnel. Remember to update the offsite copies periodically.
Employees – have phone numbers (home & cell) for every employee. Decide who will call employees. A calling tree might be advisable if there are many employees. Each employee should have a contact number (home or cell) for a supervisor or the business owner which is not a business number.
Clients – Your clients are essential to your business. Have a copy of your client contact list offsite. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses should be on the list.
Suppliers/Support - Maintain a contact list of suppliers and service companies you use. It will be easier to get help if you have the phone number and your account number for insurance, utilities, phone, tech support, etc. You may want to contact suppliers to delay or reroute deliveries. You should include in your list alternate suppliers. What if your supplier has a disaster?
The most common business disaster is loss of data. This can result from human error, computer failure, natural disaster, or theft. To protect yourself, know your data – what is it, where is it, and what is most important to your business.
Data kept in paper form is vulnerable to fire, flood, theft, or loss. You can maintain copies offsite. If paper files are too voluminous to offsite, consider making digital copies for offsite storage.
Most small businesses today use computer technology whether for accounting support or as an integral part of the business. It is essential that regular backups are taken and stored offsite. If you do your own backups, take the media home with you at least weekly. If you are not computer savvy or your system setup is sophisticated, a technology support company can help design the most efficient, cost-effective way to provide backup support. An essential step to successful backups is actually testing a recovery from one of those backups – time consuming but worth the effort.
Additionally, the business should know each software product used by the employees and the login id and password for each employee. If an employee could not be reached, you might have to perform the employee’s function. Would you have access?
A comprehensive disaster recovery plan could include much more, costing time and money to develop. However, thought about some crucial pieces of a plan, documenting your plan, and sharing it with your employees, will go a long way to help, if a disaster ever befalls you.
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