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Creating a disaster recovery plan might seem pretty low down on your to-do list, especially if you already feel you don’t have enough time to run your small business.
For solopreneurs, most of the day-to-day running of your operation falls squarely on your shoulders. And this is one of the main reasons why you SHOULD create a disaster recovery plan. After all, if something happens to you, who will either keep your shop ticking over or even close it down.
Planning for the what-ifs can then leave free you up to work on the here-and-now.
After all of the effort you have put into your business you want to protect it. So maybe it’s time to start bumping up your Disaster Recovery Plan to the top of your to-do list.
Who needs a disaster recovery plan?
After all of the effort you put into your business, what could be more frustrating than to watch it fail. And all because of something that you have no control over.
When business is disrupted, it can cost money. Lost revenues plus extra expenses mean reduced profits. This isn’t what you have worked so hard for!
You might think a Disaster Recovery Plan is more appropriate for a bigger organisation. But there is actually a more significant impact on smaller companies when disaster strikes. Larger companies can usually weather the storm better as they have more available resources to survive. Resources in the form of both cash and people.
Fire, hurricanes or floods could happen to anyone, and all of your stock could vanish overnight. Do you have contingencies in place if this happens? Or maybe you get a power surge and your computer blows up. Will this be a significant cause of concern, or can you get up and running again quickly.
Without getting too pessimistic, many disasters could occur, both big and small. Knowing how you would handle each scenario will help you get back on your feet sooner with less stress.
Therefore, small business owners must create, and regularly update a disaster recovery plan.
What is a disaster recovery plan?
A disaster recovery plan is a document that details how you’ll get your business up and running if disaster strikes.
Include things in your plan like how you’ll recover your IT, where you’ll work if you can’t work at your usual office or studio, and what you’ll do if the equipment you need to do your work is not available.
Your disaster recovery plan is there to give you peace of mind, in the same way a business insurance policy can. By doing this forward planning, you’ll be able to work out what things are essential to keeping your business in operation and running smoothly.
Your disaster recovery plan doesn’t have to be complicated. But it does need to be something that will work for you and your business, is easy to locate in the case of an emergency, and everyone involved knows what part they play.
Creating a disaster recovery plan
When a particular disaster strikes, do you know what your first move will be or who to contact? Will different situations prompt different responses, and do you know what those responses will be?
Taking time to think about how you would want to deal with specific situations calmly and rationally before the problem occurs means you will be less panicked if the situation does arise.
Your main aim for your disaster recovery plan is to think about how you will resume trading as soon as possible following a disaster. It might be that you don’t get fully operational until sometime later, but what you are trying to do is lessen the revenue loss where possible.
What should you include in your plan?
Your Disaster Recovery plan only needs to contain information that is pertinent to your business, but here is a checklist to give you some ideas of the type of content to include:
- A business impact analysis – This looks at all of the different situations you can think of that may disrupt your business and try to better understand the impact.
- A recovery strategy – Based on your impact analysis, what’s your plan of action for each type of situation? Identify and document what you need to do to lessen the impact of a disaster. This may include doing things such as taking regular backups, duplicating vital records, finding suppliers that deliver quickly, etc. If the response is a workaround while you get fully operational, try and assess how long you can continue with the workaround in place.
- Gap Analysis – Identify the gap between what you need to do and what you currently do and put an action plan together to fill any gaps.
- Assigned Responsibilities – If the response to a specific scenario requires someone else to do something, make sure they understand what they need to do and regularly test that they can do it.
- Internal contacts – detail everyone within your business who yuo need to inform.
- External contacts – detail which customers, suppliers, or employees do you need to tell.
- Alternative work location – think about where you will work if you can’t be in your usual work place.
- Insurance policies – detail your policy numbers and which phone number should you call.
- Plan review – detail how often you will check your plan and keep it updated.
There may be other points you’ll want to add that are relevant to your business, this is just a starting point.
Protect your data
If you do business online you usually can’t afford to lose access to your data. Whether it’s due to human error, a cyber-attack, or a natural disaster, losing access to your data puts your business at risk and can often be costly to put right.
Here are some tips for ensuring your data stays safe:
- Identify what is essential to your business
Check your phone, laptop, desktop, or tablet for all the calendars, contacts, documents, and photos you couldn’t operate without.
- Create back ups
Ensure you regularly copy all your essential information over to a storage system that is separate from your computer. Make a habit of it. Keep your business-critical backups up to date by adding a regular date in your diary.
If you are using a physical device to backup your data, think about storing your backups in a different physical location. This gives you another level of security if there’s a fire or your laptop is stolen.
Review your business insurance
Once you have reviewed the possible disaster scenarios, it is worth checking your insurance policy. Check it to see what you are and, more importantly, what you are NOT covered for.
As a minimum, you should have enough cover to pay for the disruption to your business, as well as costs for physical damage.
Compile a communication strategy
Make sure you communicate with your customers about the state of your business.
Keeping your customers informed can make the difference between a good or bad review. Or more importantly, returning customers.
Depending on the scenario, make sure you know who you should be contacting and how you will be communicating with them.
Don’t wait until a disaster happens to hunt for key people and organisations to contact. Create a list now of who you should call after a disaster.
Investing your time and resources against a threat that may never come may feel like a waste of time, but each minute you spend preparing for a disaster is an hour you’ll save when issues do arise.
Let me know how you get on with your disaster recovery plan in the comments below.