3 Steps for Winterizing Your Small Business Disaster Recovery Plan
Winter is almost here. Does your business have a small business disaster recovery plan in place? If you define “disaster” as an 8.5 magnitude earthquake, remember that disasters come in unexpected forms and sizes. It’s the business disruption caused by a disaster that typically matters to your customers and clients. In New England, winter storms can be surprisingly severe, causing disruptions such as power outages, connectivity disruptions and unsafe traveling conditions for your employees, who can forget the impacts of 2013’s nor’easter or the ice storm of 1998?
Even if you have yet to complete a small business disaster recovery plan, you can develop a micro-plan by considering these three steps for getting winter-ready:
1. Revisit (or develop) your snow day policy.
When a winter storm strikes, what is your business’ policy on closing the office? Many service-oriented businesses, organizations or public service agencies don’t have the luxury of closing. Requiring your employees to travel to the office in dangerous conditions could be avoided with a telecommuting policy. From a technology standpoint, if your business includes sensitive financial and business information, it may not be practical for your employees to work away from the office. However, for many small businesses, the most economical option may be for employees to work from home. In this case, get ready for winter by setting up and testing network connections and communications systems and addressing other key concerns that you may have about staff working from home.
Even if your business does not involve sensitive information, or you already allow employees to work remotely, many employees may not be able to work productively at home because they lack good broadband connectivity, computers, home office space, or privacy to do their job in an appropriate and timely manner. As you develop a policy, evaluate the pros and cons and keep business continuity and data security a priority.
2. Make a plan for rebuilding Internet and phone connections.
Most businesses rely on their Internet connections to function. This is especially true where we use cloud computing for file storage, virtual servers, and customer support systems. Whenever possible, get service from two different providers using diverse paths to enter your building. Where all utilities use the same path, consider wireless backups or at least use differing technologies. For example if your primary connection is fiber, consider an Ethernet over Copper backup.
If you do allow your employees to work from home during a winter storm, consider how your team will resume operations, ensuring that you can keep in touch via phone with your clients, customers and partners. If your business uses a Hosted PBX service, this may be as simple as setting your Hosted PBX up to deliver calls to employees’ mobile phones or just packing phones up and bringing them home the night before a storm.
3. Plan for back-up power.
Don’t forget that some Nor’easters mean ice storms and often, power outages are a consequence. As you prep for winter, ask yourself: how long can you afford for your IT systems to be down in a power outage? For some businesses, the answer is “zero downtime.” If this is the case for your business, your disaster recovery plan must include a strategy for a secondary source of power. Even the best back-up for your phone and Internet is useless if you can’t lack the power to keep computers up and running. Moreover, working from home won’t help much if servers that support customer care and accounting systems are offline due to power failure. Consider installing a generator at your primary office or moving key company applications to the cloud or a data center, which has complete backup systems in place.
As winter approaches, don’t underestimate the potential costs of a business disruption. Learn more about creating a small business disaster recovery plan with our step-by-step e-book.
Ice Storm of 1998 photo by ToriaURU