Hurricanes and other natural disasters can bring business to a screeching halt when an office or plant is damaged or destroyed, and critical infrastructure is offline.
"When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast last fall, it resulted in $62 billion in damages and economic losses from businesses that were not able to operate because of flooded buildings, power blackouts and damaged communications infrastructure," said Justin Moore, CEO at Axcient, a provider of cloud solution applications to avoid downtime and data loss.
"However, there were several success stories, where firms had disaster plans in place and were able to leverage cloud-based disaster recovery and business continuity solutions to weather the storm. Dozens of IT providers in Sandy’s path used the latest technology to spin up virtual offices in the cloud to keep employees productive while waiting for primary systems to come back online or be restored," Moore explains.
"These businesses had a clear emergency preparedness plan in place for their personnel and employed the technologies that can deliver real business protection exactly when it’s needed."
Looking at examples of what enterprises did to successfully weather Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters, Axcient developed 10 disaster preparedness tips that can help companies prepare and respond to disasters, while keeping their business up-and-running and maintaining vital revenue.
- Take care of employees. First and foremost, your employees should know evacuation procedures, including where to meet and whom to contact after an evacuation. Offices also should have a basic emergency supply kit on hand. The federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shows what to include in its Basic Disaster Supplies Kit.
- Identify assets most critical to your business. Before disaster strikes, determine which systems and applications are essential to your day-to-day operations, which data your employees and customers need the most, and how long your business can wait while it recovers from a failure or disaster.
- Determine what factors create the most risk for your business. Is your office at risk for flooding, or is the structure properly built to withstand hurricanes, earthquakes, and fire damage? In addition to these factors, you also must determine what else could cause downtime, and how much an hour or day of downtime could cost your business.
- Evaluate the solution(s) you have in place. Are you able to virtualize your entire IT infrastructure off site? Can your disaster recovery solution be centrally managed? Do you have a dependable solution that automatically backs up your most recent files? These are all important questions to consider before disaster strikes.
- Evaluate your solution provider. In the event of disaster, you need to make sure your solution provider can protect your business information and eliminate IT downtime. Questions you should ask them include whether they have a disaster preparedness plan of their own so that they can help you during a disaster, if their solution built on reliable hardware and software, and to what extent are they dependent on other vendors for recovery services.
- Write a recovery plan. Clearly define and document the steps needed to recover your network and ensure employee safety. These steps should be posted around the office for employees to see, so they become familiar with the plan and should be electronically available on the company’s intranet. As a best practice, hand out printed copies for key employees to take home with them.
- Regularly test your recovery plan. Review your plan documentation on a quarterly basis with department heads, and be sure that these leaders review disaster recovery procedures with their teams. Live tests should be conducted at least twice per quarter.
- Document the details of your recovery plan test. Fine tune your recovery plan by evaluating what went well, and more importantly, what didn’t, when you do your quarterly tests.
- Regularly update your recovery plan as company evolves. When changes are made to the plan, inform employees to ensure that the plan is still relevant to your business, particularly if there have been significant changes that may impact disaster preparedness. These changes could include individuals who are no longer with the company and have been assigned specific disaster recovery tasks. Also, you’ll need to plan accordingly for establishing back-ups in case the key people are not reachable during an emergency.
- Stay informed, and communicate with others. Many weather emergencies can be predicted, so stay current on local weather forecasts, and follow updates from local authorities. You’ll also want to ensure that other businesses in your network have their own disaster plans and determine how you will communicate with partners and customers when disasters strike.