Is My Business Ready for a Disaster?

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When most business people think of disaster recovery they imagine a massive hurricane, a fire, or a flood that destroys their building and all of the contents. Most people do a nightly backup of their data to a tape drive or hard drive and instruct a member of the staff to take the data home with them and keep it in a secure place, in case there is a fire, flood or hurricane that night.
But that is not the most common case of data loss for most businesses. A recent study from the Strategic Research Corporation indicated that the more common methods of data loss were from hardware failures, human error, software errors and viruses. Natural disasters ranked at the bottom and accounted for only 3% of the incidents of data loss.
Here is the reality; you or a co-worker is much more likely to drop a laptop, have a power surge or forget to back up the data one night than you are to lose your data in a tornado. You are also much more likely to have a partial data loss than a full data loss.
So knowing and being able to execute your own disaster recovery plan is a crucial part of your overall business planning. In fact, more and more vendors and customers are requiring proof of data security and continuity as a prerequisite for doing business. One law firm that I recently engaged for data backup needed to prove their offsite backup capabilities in order to do business with a particular client.
Building an effective Disaster Recovery Plan can seem like a daunting task. No Disaster Recovery Plan is the same so ask yourself the questions below to begin to understand how to craft the best disaster recovery plan for your business.

  1. Examine your risk. How can I lose my data? Losing data from a dropped laptop is different than a flood or a power surge. List all the different ways you could potentially suffer from data loss. Rank order the likelihood of each and the severity of each.
  2. What data can I afford to lose? What data must be secure? If you are like most businesses you probably have a bunch of files stored on your server and you don’t even know what they are but you are scared to delete it. Not all of your data needs immediate backup. Emails from 10 years ago probably don’t deserve the level of security, attention and backup that a client’s current financial information may require. Try to rate the importance of each piece of your data. Don’t backup data that should be discarded.
  3. How will data loss affect my business? How long can I afford to be without my data? (1 hour? 1 day? 1 week? 1 month?) How many customers will I lose if I am offline for any length of time? What would that cost my business? An accounting firm that recently signed up for our managed services told us that they truly can’t be without their computers and data for any extended period, during tax season. We crafted an image based backup that can have their company back online in a matter of hours, not days.
  4. How can I minimize my risk? There is a plethora of technology and tools out there to help you secure and manage your data. It may be as simple as eliminating data or as complex as an image based backup with virtual servers.
Develop your disaster recovery plan.
  1. How long would it take you to recover from all of the data loss scenarios covered above? If a power surge destroyed your server tonight how long would it take you to get back up and running. Keep in mind it will take a day or two to order a new server and another day or two to rebuild the server. Then comes the restore from backup. Can your business survive five or more days without its data?
  2. How can I recover faster? What tools and technology do I need in place today? Is secure data worth the price of the technology? Offsite backup is a common solution for most small business these days, as it allows the business to have almost immediate access to their data from any Internet connection. Image based backup is becoming extremely popular in today’s “I want it yesterday” world. Ask your Managed Service Provider for help.
  3. What if you are without phone lines? Don’t forget to consider loss of communication. Maintain an updated list of all phone numbers and other contact information for your hardware and software vendors.3)
Test your plan.
  1. Test your backup! I know of plenty of businesses who “think” they are doing a backup every night but they never test their backup. Then, when disaster strikes (and it always does), the backup is corrupted.
  2. Practice your plan! Disaster tends to create chaos. Instead of you and your staff running in all directions, assign tasks to individuals to be carried out when disaster strikes.

Craig Augenstein is the Practice Partner for eddsa in Columbia, SC. Eddsa provides next generation IT support to small and medium sized businesses all over the Southeastern United States  with offices in Columbia, Charleston and Baton Rouge. For more information about computer support and disaster recovery, email Craig at caugenstein@eddsa.net or visit www.eddsa.com.

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