Could your business continue to operate if your website completely went down? Are you sure? Unless your website is only an ancillary part of your business, having a disaster recovery plan is a must.
When it comes to you operations in the world-wide web, it is not a matter of “if” a disaster strikes, it is a matter of “when.” At some point, your data will be in danger, whether it’s from hackers, fraudsters, technology failure, or even a simple mistake on your part. That doesn’t even take into account physical disasters: hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes, landslides, tornados … the list goes on and on.
When that happens, not having a disaster recovery plan is roadmap for disaster. It has been estimated that 93% of companies who suffer a major data disaster without a disaster recovery plan are forced out of business within one year. Yet 75% of small businesses have no disaster recovery plan in place.
Creating a Plan
The reason behind the disaster can vary, but if it can potentially take down your site—and thus your business—having a disaster recovery plan is the most complete and logical protection. So how can you create a plan? Here are a few steps:
This is the most obvious step and the most helpful, but it is astonishing how many businesses don’t even have a routine for systematic backups. Making regular backups of your data is critical for any business: for many, that data IS your business. Having consistent backups means you can recover your site in a matter of few minutes, with minimal information loss. Choosing a managed off-site backup service can take the responsibility off your shoulders, will help with restoration, and will be more secure.
Having a data backup is crucial. But what if the problem isn’t data? Your plan should cover how to proceed in the event some physical or technical reason keeps you off-line for more than a few days. An ice-storm could keep power out for weeks, in severe cases. You’ll need to address possible alternatives for keeping your site live, or barring that, working around not having a site. You should also consider a way to let customers know what is going on, if possible.
A natural disaster or emergency could do more than cut off access to your website: it could also kill all your normal modes of inbound and outbound communication. Adding a communications contingency to your disaster plan could be a lifesaver.
But that is only half the problem. As noted above, letting your customers know about downtime is has long-term importance … but unfortunately, if you lose data, there’s a good chance your customer information will be gone, too. For that reason, it’s extremely important to keep a separate emergency contact list with customer information such as email addresses and phone number. This will need to be updated on a regular basis, but once a month is probably sufficient.
A wise man once said, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” In other words, even the best-laid plans can’t account for every contingency. That makes testing even more important. Do trial runs. Try to imagine alternate scenarios. Above all, make sure multiple people at your company are intimately aware of the plan so they can take immediate action when disaster strikes.
Your company’s data is one of its most important assets. Disasters of varying degrees are certain to happen; when they do, you need to be sure that you can get your systems back up and running, your data restored, and your customers in the loop. If you don’t have an emergency plan in place working on it now is the best way to ensure minimal impact to your business when disaster hits.