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Preparing for the worst: Disaster recovery planning in 10 simple steps

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Here are ten simple steps small and medium-sized businesses can take to mitigate against the risks.

1. Business insurance cover

Before you start looking at disaster recovery, check if your insurance will cover every eventuality. Insurance can often feel like a costly annual aggravation, however, in a disaster scenario it can make the difference between survival and bankruptcy. Your policy will have a section on ‘Business Interruption’ and this will tell you what is, and what isn’t covered in the event of a disaster. If you’re not sure, call the provider to clarify the terms of your policy. In the case of a total loss, you should be thinking about a level of cover of around two years’ total revenues.

3. Write a risk register

Too many businesses don’t have a DR plan, so my advice is to sit down and consider the worst possible things (risks) that could happen to your company. Rate each risk according to likelihood (probability) and potential damage to the business (impact). Remember that most disaster situations arise from two or more risks becoming reality at the same time. Think these through to create a range of scenarios in terms of probability and impact. 

4. Write a basic DR plan

Now you’ve considered the worst, think about what you would need to do to recover from each scenario. This will form your DR or business continuity plan (BCP). You may discover that there are some things you can do to prepare in advance of certain disasters. If they’re cost effective (in relation to the likelihood and potential damage) then implement them as soon as possible.

Here’s a free template to create your own DR plan.

5. Print two copies

When the power fails and you can’t turn your PC on, you’ll depend on pen and paper. File one copy away at the office and take the other home with you. If there are more directors or managers who may be responsible for the company in your absence give them a copy to take home too. Saving a copy to your iPad, tablet or phone is also a good idea, but do ensure it’s encrypted.

6. Test periodically 

To find out whether your plan will work, test it. In the case of a real disaster, it is often the fine details that are overlooked and create obstacles to recovery. Make testing a regular event.

7. Update and print your employee contact book 

Being able to contact and coordinate staff will be critical in an emergency. While printed copies of staff details are the most reliable backup, smartphones and Outlook ActiveSync give you alternative options. Remember to keep your staff list as up-to-date as possible. 

8. Consider alternative locations

If disaster strikes, meaning you cannot access your office, you need an alternative. Researching options like managed office space and/or remote working in advance will save you time and will give you a clear idea of what you need to ensure all works well. This may include deciding where you locate your core IT systems – in-house or in local colocation facilities. 

9. Update your customers 

Nothing will damage your reputation more quickly than not communicating efficiently and effectively with your customers. Most clients will be reasonable and forgiving, as long as you are open and honest with them and provide them with regular, informative updates. 

10. Host your website off-site

Make sure your website is hosted off-site with a reliable data centre or hosting provider. Remember though, you get what you pay for with hosting, so sometimes the cheapest deal isn’t always the best for reliability and resiliency. 

Jack Bedell-Pearce is the managing director of 4D Data Centres, providing colocation and connectivity services to SMEs. It is the parent company of 4D Hosting. 4D has had a 100 per cent power uptime record since it opened back in 2007.

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