With the appearance of Hurricane Florence, thoughts are turning once again to the disasters that can appear and devastate the things that are most important to us. It’s natural at times like these, when we see these headlines on our favorite websites and social media, to think about our own levels of preparedness and what we would do if we were facing this type of trouble.
But before I get into this topic of disaster preparedness (and recovery) for your business, let me take one moment to send thoughts and prayers from all of us at JMARK to everyone in the path of this storm, or who has friends, family, and loved ones in that region. We pray that everyone on the coast will be safe, and will be able to quickly recover from any damage the storm causes to your homes, properties, and businesses. Please be safe, and watch out for one another in the coming days.
As for the rest of, safely inland at the moment, this is also a time to reflect that every region of this country faces its own types of disasters throughout the year, from tornadoes in the Midwest to wildfires in the West. These types of devastating natural events can occur with very little warning and often leave us scrambling to figure out how to best protect our assets when there is little to no time to take any steps.
I personally faced this type of dilemma just a couple of years ago when a wildfire came within a half mile of my home, forcing urgent evacuations. I was working from home at the time, and so had the chance to grab what I thought was important before leaving my home. But that “chance” amounted to about ten minutes. Ten minutes to look at the home where I had lived for fifteen years and try to decide what mattered most. It was an impossibly (nearly paralyzingly) hard decision to make. Sure, I grabbed the photo albums, because we all know that memories matter more than things. But what about those things that are inextricably tied to memories? Those nightstands in my bedroom that were made by my grandfather, or that chair that was the first thing I bought for my first apartment with my first paycheck from my first job after college? I quickly came to realize that no matter what I grabbed—even if I had had more time—a lot of important things were going to be lost if that fire reached my home.
The one thing I didn’t worry about was my work. I was running a freelance writing business at the time and had my computer set to back itself up to both an external hard drive and a cloud storage account. So all I had to do was grab the hard drive and go. Business saved!
Or so I thought.
The problem I didn’t realize at the time—and a consideration I may never have arrived at on my own before coming to work for JMARK—was that simply having my data backed up was not the same as having a thorough disaster recovery plan for my business. Sure, I had accounted for the possibility of my data being lost, but what about business continuity—what about getting back to work after the disaster? In the case of the wildfire, there wouldn’t have been a problem, because I had time and opportunity to grab my computer as well.
But if a different disaster had occurred, I could have been in trouble. If my computer had been destroyed (even by something as simple as a hard drive crash), I would have been unable to continue working. Of course I had insurance, so the computer could be replaced… but we all know that insurance requires paperwork, which takes time to be approved. In the meantime, I would have either had to come up with the money to buy new equipment out of my pocket or leave my clients hanging until the insurance money came through. Neither of those is a great option.
And if something had happened to me? I had no plan whatsoever for being able to deliver my work to my clients if I had been incapacitated. Sure, I occasionally worked with a graphic designer, who had access to my cloud storage account. But he would not have known who my clients were nor how to get ahold of them and deliver any work I had for them. Furthermore, I didn’t even have any process in place to notify him that I would need that. I hadn’t even asked him if he’d mind doing so, should the situation arise.
Now, take my small one-man freelance business (with important data that was actually nothing more than Word documents), and multiply that by the size of your business… Hopefully you’re beginning to see why a proper business continuity and disaster recovery plan matters so much. And why simply backing up your data is not nearly enough.
Should a disaster strike—and the truth is, it is honestly more a matter of when disaster strikes, not if it will—you need to be able to do more than just say, “Well, at least the data is fine.” You need to be able to get right back to business, in order to fulfill the trust that your clients have put in you. This is so important, in fact, that if you don’t, the odds that you will go out of business rise dramatically. According to FEMA, 40 percent of businesses do not reopen after a disaster; and 25 percent fail within a year.
So how can you beat those odds? With thorough disaster recovery and business continuity plans.
You need a business continuity plan so that you can go back to work as quickly as possible after the disaster, and be carrying on as if no disaster had occurred. This may mean everything from being able to work remotely if your offices have been damaged, to maintaining operations after the loss of vital leadership or other personnel. (If someone holding certain keys or access codes were to be incapacitated, do you have a process in place for transferring that information and those responsibilities?) Other pieces of this plan may include contacting important clients to reassure them that you are still in the game, maintaining customer access to systems or information, putting together press releases, and many other duties (both big and small) that will allow you to operate your business in the wake of a disaster.
You also need a disaster recovery plan in order to put the pieces of your business back together for the long term. This may include repairing damaged structures, restoring the full capacity of your operations, and so much more up to (and including) the day you finally get your business back to 100%.
These types of decisions, plans, processes, and procedures need to be in place long before a disaster ever strikes. Based on my personal experience, when the stress of that disaster looms, you will not be in the right frame of mind to be making such monumental decisions. You need to plan for the rainy day while the sun is still shining.
It is also vital to realize that business disasters are much more than just natural disasters. The disaster that strikes your business could be a building fire, a flood caused by a burst water pipe, a network or server crash, a ransomware attack, or the sudden loss of one or more employees from vital positions. You may work in a literally bomb proof building, but there are still many ways that unanticipated disaster can strike. Again, this is why business continuity and disaster recovery plans matter so much: because the disaster that hobbles your business will not be the one you have already anticipated and prepared for; it will be the thing you don’t see coming. Continuity and recovery plans take over when your preparedness plan wasn’t quite enough.
Since your technology is so intertwined with every part of your business, a proper continuity and disaster recovery plan is an important component of any thorough approach to I.T. That’s why JMARK has made backup management, business continuity, and disaster recovery planning hallmarks of our I.T. solutions. We know that taking care of your business means helping ensure that things run smoothly even if the worst does occur.
In fact, our own disaster recovery plan received a real-world test on March 13, 2016, when a spring downpour and accompanying flood struck our Springfield, Missouri office. Yet even as this flood was occurring, we put our plan into action, making sure that our technicians were still able to do the vital work of monitoring our clients’ networks, and being available for help desk calls and normal, everyday I.T. “emergencies.” We’re proud to say that we were able to weather that storm and rebuild our office, all while ensuring that our clients suffered zero service downtime with their own systems.
This is the “magic” of a well-thought-out, audited and tested business continuity and disaster recovery plan. It keeps you strong so that a disaster becomes just another chapter in your company’s story, rather than the end of it.
If you want to learn more about how JMARK can help your organization with efforts to be prepared for a disaster, including our backup management and network and server monitoring plans, as well as business continuity and disaster recovery processes, give us a call at 844-44-JMARK, or email [email protected]. You can also visit the Contact Us page of this website, or follow the embedded links in this paragraph to read more about those specific services.