Weathering the Storm: Disaster Recovery Tips for Your Business

Recently, we were faced with the threat of Hurricane Matthew delivering a direct hit to our homes and offices in South Florida. Because we have shutters, I wasn’t too worried about it, but the kids were terrified. You see, I made the mistake of watching the news with them while it was covering the devastation in Haiti. Images floated across the screen of fierce winds that ripped roofs off homes faster than Mario Andretti switches gears. The kids sat stoic at first but the fear quickly overtook them. (To be fair, it was their first hurricane experience at just 9 and 11 years old.) Soon after that news segment, I found myself explaining the differences in infrastructure and support within our area. That didn’t work. Both kids refused to sleep upstairs in their bedrooms for fear of the roof flying off. So we took a trip to CVS and $160 later had a solution. We would all sleep on brand new air mattresses on the first floor. Thankfully, the storm skipped us and it was just a night of indoor camping, but it definitely reminded us of the importance of being prepared for disaster both at home and for business. Here are 5 tips for preparing for the storm:

#1: Backup and safeguard your data

If there was one item I could repeat over and over again, it would be to backup. Even with cloud services that tend to have a lot of built-in redundancy, it is critical to backup your data and websites. Disaster often doesn’t provide a warning and can come in many forms. First, there’s natural disaster everywhere whether it’s hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, snowstorms, earthquakes, floods, or others. But there are also disasters outside of natural disasters, for example, hackers. Or maybe a server goes kaput. Or maybe a new technician mistakenly deletes everything. Regardless of the cause behind a loss, having a backup makes it easy to recover faster.

#2: Have a plan of action to restore

Aside from restoring backups of your data and website, which should be a relatively quick and easy process, you need plans to restore general business operations. In order to plan for restoring business operations, you first need to think about the key operations of your business. Do you need certain tools to continue offering your services? What tools can you live without? Do you need your physical office or can your team work from a remote location? Depending on the type of business and services provided, disaster recovery plans can vary widely. Ultimately, it’s important to have a disaster recovery plan well before disaster strikes. Not having to figure it out on the fly will save your business a lot of time and energy.

#3: Take operations elsewhere & manage differently

So disaster strikes and you can’t get to your office or business. Maybe disaster strikes where your website is hosted and they have no power. Sometimes operations simply have to go elsewhere and that can be physical or online. For example, even if your retail store cannot open, it would be beneficial to still have phone lines open so that customers can call. Better yet, let them place holds for products over the phone and offer for them to pick up or have items shipped to them. Sometimes, you have to think a bit outside of the box to make sure that your business doesn’t lose more revenue due to disasters. Years ago, I worked for a technology company that got hit by Hurricane Wilma and the offices were destroyed. A bunch of employees were sent to Orlando, where we could open a temporary satellite office and the rest of us worked out of our CIO’s house (he was one of the lucky few to have power).

#4: Set expectations with clients

If you’re fortunate enough to be forewarned of impending disaster, like Hurricane Matthew, then be sure to set expectations with you clients early. Our team contacted each of our clients personally to let them know about the storm, our expectations of the damage that may occur, our plans for recovery and for continuing operations. In our experience, clients were more concerned about our safety than potentially delayed responses. Maybe we have especially great clients (OK, we really do have exceptionally great clients) but I’d like to think all businesses have clients that not only will understand but will also appreciate the communication. Now, even if you don’t have the luxury of being forewarned, your goal should be to set expectations as soon as possible with your clients. Give them ETAs and communicate consistently. They’ll appreciate your attention to the matter!

#5: Learn from any challenges

As prepared as we may be, challenges will arise. During one of my first hurricanes, I had made the mistake of not doing all my laundry before the storm. Needless to say, I realized what great inventions the washing machine and dryer are. Too bad I couldn’t use either of them for 11 days following the storm because I had no electricity. Washing clothing by hand and hang drying in Florida humidity just doesn’t work out all that great. But I learned my lesson and now when I know a storm is coming, all my laundry is done before I could potentially lose power. Similar things will happen with your business preparation. Some things will be missed or mistakes will be made. Learn from them and update your disaster recovery plans so you don’t forget.

Ultimately, the goal is to get normal operations up and running as quickly as possible after any type of disaster. Businesses don’t want to lose customers or revenue. If your website goes down, why keep digital advertising running and sending customers to a failing website. It costs you not only money but also potential customer perception. But that’s just one minor snag is a great web of things to consider for disaster recovery. Take your time, plan it out, and smoothly recover from any disaster.

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