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Is your business ready for a natural disaster?

Times have recently shown that a natural disaster can occur with little to no notice. If your business isn’t prepared, you could find yourself with a crippling long-term outage, or even critical data that is lost forever.

These guidelines will help ensure your business is able to recover from disasters and that you don’t suffer devastating loss at the hands of an earthquake, hurricane, flash flood, tornado or other natural disaster. While Southern Nevada isn’t prone to most natural disasters, these concepts also apply to more common disasters including: fire, theft and flooding of your office due to plumbing disasters.

Preparing for a natural disaster begins with creating a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. It’s not difficult to find a good disaster recovery template to work from, and the goal of planning is simple — decide the actions you’ll take in the event of a disaster ahead of time, rather than try to figure it out in the heat of a crisis. A good plan is a well-structured document that is easy to understand and follow, so that you can restore business functionality as quickly as possible. Additional objectives include:

• Ensure all employees fully understand their duties when a disaster recovery plan is invoked.

• Ensure operational policies will be followed when a plan is invoked.

• Ensure that contingency arrangements are cost-effective.

• Understand the disaster recovery capabilities of key customers, vendors and any other organizations your business relies on.

A good plan relies heavily on participation from the information technology department, but should be overseen and driven by the operations department. Some of the key elements include:

• Key personnel contact information.

• Notification call tree where one employee is designated to start a train of phone calls to inform all employees of a disaster.

• External contacts, including the landlord, power company, telecom carrier, etc.

• A communication plan for employees, customers, vendors and other key organizations you rely on.

• A plan for engaging with the media, to ensure accurate communication, while also avoiding adverse publicity.

• An alternate place for employees to work if the primary place of business is unusable.

Of course, IT plays a prominent role in disaster recovery planning. The IT department should be able to provide to management the recovery point objective (RPO) and the recovery time objective (RTO). RPO refers to the maximum period in which data might be lost due to a major incident and RTO refers to the targeted duration of time within which a business process will be restored after a disaster. IT must test its backup systems regularly to ensure the contingency plans work and are realistic. By understanding the real risks and the time frames to recover from a disaster, businesses can make well-informed decisions on the amount of money they want to spend to mitigate the appropriate level of risk.

Small businesses tend to overlook the full impact that loss of data from a natural disaster can have. Carbonite and Wakefield Research conducted a survey of small businesses in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut one year after Hurricane Sandy and discovered that two-thirds still had not created a disaster plan. The survey also revealed that, on average, a small business will lose $2,976 per day if they are unable to conduct business due to data loss.

According to datarecovery.com, loss of data for a business may not be covered by its insurance policy. Newer policies especially have started implementing clauses that prevent data recovery services from being covered. The site recommends any data-dependent business to get electronic data loss insurance on top of their normal insurance policy.

As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” No business is too small to create a good and effective disaster recovery plan; it’s all about right sizing the plan for your business. Also, plans should be reviewed carefully and amended at least once per year.

Jeff Grace is the founder and CEO of Las Vegas-based NetEffect, a technology services company that helps businesses.

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